Cheese Tart

Another brief recipe: Cheese Tart from Philippine Welser’s collection.

46 If you want to make a cheese tart

First take a good, sweet, fat cheese that is not old or crumbly (resch). Grate it small and put the grated cheese into a bowl, as much as you please. Add 2 times as much egg and 4 times as much butter so it can become like a thin batter (diner tayg), and add a very small amount of flour to it. Stir it well in the bowl, but do not make the batter too thin, so that you can keep it on the tart base (boden). Last, add some dissolved sugar (der lasnen zucker) to it. Then bake it nicely small, and when it is baked, sprinkle sugar on it while it is hot. Thus it is proper and good.

Thus is an interesting recipe, if not an innovative one. It is quite similar to the rich “English” tarts found in a few earlier sources. These would typically combine cleese and butter with or without eggs. The addition of sugar is not surprising in the sixteenth century, but I am not entirely sure whether the der lasnen zucker mentioned here is sugar syrup (see clarified sugar) or melted sugar. In any case, clarifying sugar does not preclude caramelising it to some degree.

The proportions of 4 parts butter and two parts egg to one part sugar seem improbable, but bound with fine flour, this could become something like an extremely rich batter. It is not an ancestor of Yorkshire pudding though – baking at a low temperature would keep it from fluffing up. I am tempted to try it just to see what it will actually do.

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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