Pine Nut Tart

I will need to limit myself to shorter posts for a while because I have a lot going on at work. Today, sixteenth century pine nut tarts. First by Philippine Welser:

44 If you want to make a pine nut tart

Take pine nuts, soak them and then clean them. Add sugar, cinnamon, and raisins and put it on the tart base. Prepare a crust (blad) on top and cut it, and when it is half baked, pour fat on it and let it bake fully.

Pine nuts belong to a set of fashionable luxury goods imported from the Mediterranean in the sixteenth century. Like lemons, oranges, and Parmesan cheese, they aided in imitating an Italian lifestyle aspired to by the very wealthy. They are not native to Germany. Thus, despite the simplicity, this is a very luxurious recipe. It is not easy to read how this would turn out because much depends on proportions and cooking techniques. The related recipe in Marx Rumpolt does not clarify much:

41 Also make a tart of pine nuts (piuni), small black raisins mixed in, and made nicely sweet.

(p. clxxviii v)

Good pine nuts are quite soft and will not be hard or crunchy, especially if the soaking takes place soon before adding them to the tart. It is possible that this is simply meant to blanch them – remove the brown skin covering the kernel – and they would be dried beforehand, though. This will make a difference to the consistency, with soaked nuts softening almost to a paste, especially if hot water was used. I used to use them as a base for sauces in Roman recipes before they were priced out of my range.

The next question is the quantity and consistency of the sugar being added. We have seen before that clarified sugar, which is called for in some recipes, was used as a thick liquid. This, added to soft nut meats in quantity, could easily produce something akin to the beloved modern American pecan pie. Crystallised sugar, on the other hand, is more likely to produce something crumbly and dry.

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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