Two More Pastry Crust Recipes

This is a pretty exciting find from Philippine Welser’s recipe collection:

58 How you should make pastry coffins (bastetten hefen)

Take half fine flour and half second flour (nach mel, flour of lesser quality), break 2 eggs into it and put in melted fat into it, about as much as the size of one egg, and hot water. Or boil the fat in the water and once the water has cooled a little, pour it into the flour. Work it well until it is dry and elastic, otherwise it cannot be raised (auf setzenn). Except for venison pastries, I only use fine flour alone, and when it has had enough, I pull it, thus it becomes good and elastic.

How to make the dough for tarts (dortten)

Take fine flour, an egg or two, a little water, and a spoonful of fat. Beat it well together and sprinkle on flour until until it turns as thick as semel dough. Then work it well under your hands until it turns dry and make a tart base that is quite thin with a wreath around it.

Unsurprisingly, these recipes closely parallel that recorded in the recipebook of Sabina Welser:

To make a pastry dough for all raised pastries

Take flour, the best you can get, about two handfuls, or depending on how large or small you want it, place it on the table, stir in two eggs with a knife and salt it a little. Put water and an amount of lard the size of two good eggs into a pan and let it melt together and boil, then pour it onto the abovementioned flour on the table, make a stiff dough and work it well as you see fit. In summer, you must use meat broth instead of the water and fat ladled from the top of soups instead of lard. When the dough is kneaded, roll it into a round ball and stretch it out well forward with your fingers or with a rolling pin, so that a rim remains, and then let it harden in the cold. Then shape the dough in the measure I showed you and retain some dough for a cover, roll it out and moisten it and the top of the the raised pastry with water, then press it well together with your fingers. Leave a little hole in one place, and when it is pressed together well and no openings are left, blow into the little hole you left so the lid rises up nicely. Then press it together immediately. Put it in the oven, but flour the container beforehand and see that the oven is heated well, thus it will be a good pastry. That is the way you make dough for raised pastries.

(Sabina Welserin #61, translation by Valoise Armstrong)

Beyond the fact that these recipes come from the same place (Augsburg) and time (early 1550s), they even have a connection with the same family. We do not know exactly how Sabina and Philippine Welser were related, but they were both members of the Welser baking clan. It is entirely plausible that their recipe books reflect the practices the same kitchen and its staff. No matter what nineteenth-century historians liked to imagine, we should not envision a Welser woman working in the kitchen herself.

That gives me a greater level of confidence to draw on them to better understand the respective other one. Most prominently, the quantity of flour is not given in Philippine Welser’s collection, but we can use the ‘two handfuls’ of Sabina’s as a reference point. Both recipes agree on the need to work and knead the crust, and the second one presented here compares it to semel, a dough for fine, white breadrolls. That suggests to me that I was wrong to increase the ratio of fat to flour in my most recent variation of Sabina Welserin’s recipe. The intent really is a kneadable, elastic dought with well-developed gluten. This really works as we found out in my pie workshop last November. The mix starts out hot and sticky, but as it is worked and cools, it becomes pliable and stiff. The resulting crust is smooth and holds liquid in well. It is not really a short crust in the modern sense, but it belongs to that development and is much closer to modern hot water crust than the earlier attested method of having the dough absorb melted butter during baking found in the Kuchenmaistrey, among other places.

We also hear that tart and pastry dough differ in the quality of the flour used. While tarts consist of fine white flour, pastries are made of half nach mel, an expression that suggests seconds, a lesser quality. This might help us understand what the perceived difference between tarts and pastries was since there seems to be no clear dividing line otherwise: Both tart and pastry are closed, both can be baked in tart pans in the embers as well as in ovens, there are round pastries, pastry fillings can be sweet and fruity, tart fillings meaty and spicy. Unfortunately, while the author of the collection suggests using only second-quality flour for a venison pastry later, they immediately inform us that no, many pastries are also made with the same fine flour tarts are made with.

Anyway, I hope to try both these recipes tomorrow and see what happens.

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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One Response to Two More Pastry Crust Recipes

  1. Fascinating! The evolution of pastry doughs, their ingredients and methods, is well worth documenting. Thank you.

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