Spanish Pastries

Just a short recipe from Philippine Welser’s collection today. It looks like an early form of puff pastry:

71 If you want to make Spanish pastries

Take good flour and prepare a dough with clear warm water. Salt it a little and work it well, that way it can be made to stand (last er sych auf setzenn). Prepare a sheet as long as your work surface (das bredt) is and quite thin. Roll it out with a rolling pin and spread that same sheet with melted bacon, but only half. Let the fat congeal and roll out the same sheet on top of itself again (read das selb blat yber ain ander for das selb baldt yber ain walger) and make another eight of these sheets, each over a rolling pin. And (make) as many pastry crusts (hefelin) as there are people at the table so that everyody has one. Fill them with what you have of gamebirds, chickens, or other chopped meats of veal or castrated ram. Bake them in the oven or the pan and serve them hot.

This is interesting, and I think it describes a kind of early pate feuilleté. Unfortunately, the key sentence that describes (I think) folding over the layers of dough over layers of fat depends on a reinterpretation. The wording as it stands makes no sense. Interestingly, there is a similar recipe in Marx Rumpolt’s New Kochbuch of 1581 that can help us interpret this one:

46. Prepare a dough with water so that you can roll it out well and thin. Grease it with melted fresh bacon and roll the dough up over itself. Make so much that all on top of each other it is as thick as an arm. And once it is thick (enough), cut it away in pieces, be they for small or large pastries. If you want to roll it out, moisten your hands with melted bacon that is not hot so the dough does not stick to the hands. Again work a pastry case of white dough and set the other one inside it that you have worked from bacon fat. For this dough holds up the Spanish one so it does not collapse. And you can fill them with chopped meat. Cut another piece of Spanish dough so you can make a top crust. Grease paper with olive oil, set the pastries on it, slide them into the voven and let them bake. See they do not burn; they burn easily because there is so much fatness in the dough. Open the lids and pour in good chicken broth so that the chopped meat does not become dry (herb), that way it turns out good and well-tasting. This is how you make small pastries. You can also use this kind of dough with fish. (clxxiv v)

This is still not entirely clear – and cleartly not exactly the same thing – but it is obviously a technique fore layering thin, unleavened dough with fat to achieve a tener, flaky crust. It is served in individual portions, likely because it would not hold up well as a large container. And most importantly, these Spanish pastries are defined not by what is inside them, but by what is around them. You can put in whatever meat you like, as long as it is encased in this kind of proto-puff pastry, it is a Spanish pastry. This looks like it could use some experimenting.

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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