Egg Tarts from Philippine Welser

Another instance of this manuscript collecting many variations on a theme:

13 If you want to make an egg tart

Take a Maß of milk and add ten eggs. Beat them well together and then put it into a pan. Brush the pan with fat beforehand so that it sticks less. Then let it boil together, and do not make it too hard. Afterwards, pour it out on a sieve or a colander and let it cool. Stir it well and add a little sugar and cream until it flows. Then put it on a tart base and let it bake nicely in a tart pan. When it is half baked, strew it well with sugar and let it bake fully.

14 If you want to make an egg tart for one table

Take eighteen eggs and beat them well, and add a seydlin of milk and a little flour. Take fat, as much as the size of half an egg, and put it into a pan. Let it heat up and pour the beaten eggs into this and let them boil together. Do not let it burn, pour it out on a sieve or colander and let it cool. Stir in sugar, spread it on a tart base, and let it bake.

15 If you want to make a good egg tart

Take a quarter pound (fyerdung) of almonds and grind it small. Then take half the almonds and prepare a quarter (qwerttlin) of almond milk with fresh water. Then take fifteen egg yolks and beat the almond milk with them well. Then take the remaining pounded almond and half a spoonful of sugar and also stir it into the eggs. Then take fat and let it swirl around the pan and pour the abovementioned into it. Let it boil until it turns as thick as a child’s porridge (kynnds musz). Then spread it on the tart base and let it warm well in a tart pan. Then pass a piece of fat back and forth over the tart, and when the fat has melted, sprinkle pounded sugar over it and let it bake fully.

16 If you want to make an egg tart

Take eight egg yolks and beat them well and add a quarter (qwertlin) of cream to it, and fine flour (semel mel) to the value of half a Heller (halbs haler wert). Put fat into a pan, as much as a small walnut, and afterwards put the eggs into it. Prepare it like scrambled eggs (wie ain ein gerertz), as soft as you can, and pour it out on a sieve or a colander. Stir in sugar and rosewater after that and spread it on a tart base. Let it bake nicely, roughly for an hour, and sprinkle sugar on it when you serve it.

17 How to cook good egg milk and make a tart of that

Take a good Maß of cream and eight eggs with that and a little butter (botter schmaltzs). Put the cream over the fire and let it boil. Beat the eggs well and the butter with them, then put them in(-to the cream) together with the butter and let them boil up together, but not too long so it does not become tough. Let the water run off it clear and put the rest into a bowl. Stir it well like a porridge (muß) and add sugar. If you like, you can put in almonds and raisins. Put it on a tart base and let it bake nicely.

What Philippine Welser’s recipebook calls an egg tart is not something we would normally coopk today. It is based on what was known at the time as pressed milk or egg cheese, a hard custard that shows up in recipebooks with remarkable regularity. It could be served as it was or roasted, or, as in this case, turned into a tart filling. While there are variations in ingredients, in the thickness of the custard and the seasoning, but the underlying form remains the same in all of them.

Interestingly, the principle is very similar to the somewhat richer recipe Balthasar Staindl records for a kind of tart prepared specifically for Easter, the Pressmetzen.

Pressmetzen zu Ostern

ccxxii Make a good gentle egg cheese (custard) and do not burn it. Put it on a draining board so that it sinks down (drains) well, then take the egg cheese and stir it apart with a spoon, add more eggs, a little sweet cream, also grate semmel bread into it, yellow it (with saffron), season it, add sufficient raisins. Then take semmel bread dough from a baker, roll it out wide, put the abovementioned egg cheese on it, and wreath (kräntzel) it around and around (make a plaited edge). Bake it in an oven, but before you put it into the oven, add figs, put almonds on top. Anoint the wreath outside with yellowed (saffron-dyed) egg yolks and put it back into the oven briefly. These flecken (tarts) are blessed for Easter.

These were part of the Easter celebrations, carried to church to be blessed and then likely eaten communally. It is possible that these tarts, too, are associated with Easter, and they are certainly seasonal springtime foods.

Philippine Welser (1527-1580), a member of the prominent and extremely wealthy Welser banking family of Augsburg, was a famous beauty of her day. Scandalously, she secretly married Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg in 1557 and followed him first to Bohemia, then to Tyrol. A number of manuscripts are associated with her, most famously a collection of medicinal recipes and one of mainly culinary ones. The recipe collection, addressed as her Kochbuch in German, was most likely produced around 1550 when she was a young woman in Augsburg. It may have been made at the request of her mother and was written by an experienced scribe. Some later additions, though, are in Philippine Welser’s own hand, suggesting she used it.

The manuscript is currently held in the library of Ambras Castle near Innsbruck as PA 1473 and was edited by Gerold Hayer as Das Kochbuch der Philippine Welser (Innsbruck 1983).

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