The Ways of Egg Pastry

Today, three ways of turning eggs, cream, and sugar into a pastry filling from the recipe collection of Philippine Welser:

84 If you want to make an egg pastry

Raise the pastry crust nicely and let it harden (erstarcken) before. Then take eggs and milk and beat them together well. Add sweet butter and spices, sugar it well, and pout it into the pastry crust. Let it bake, and when you want to serve it, put a lid (deckalin) on it.

85 Another egg pastry

Take creamy milk and set it over (the fire) and add a piece of sweet butter as large as a duck’s egg. Prepare a soft batter from eggs, and when the milk is boiling, pour in the batter and let it boil until it turns into a thick mass (myeslin). Then put it into a bowl, stir in sugar and cinnamon, and afterwards let it bake in a pastry crust.

85 To make yet another egg pastry

Take eight eggs and beat them well. Pour good creamy milk into that and add a handful of flour. Beat it well together and pass it through a cloth or tight sieve. Let the pastry crust become quite stiff (wol stark werden) in the oven and pour in a little of this (liquid) into it, three times, but not soon after each other. That way it rises nicely. Afterwards, put a lot of sugar on it, that way it is proper. Serve it first.

This is interesting, though not terribly adventurous or complex. the three recipes certainly can serve as a warning against assuming you understand a dish from a recipe that mainly lists ingredients. These three pastries all use much the same things, but are likely to come out quite different. Of course, this is nothing new in Philippine Welser’s recipes. They are, for one thing, very close to the various egg tarts listed earlier, which once again raises the question what exactly the technical difference between a tart and pastry might be. Surely there was one.

The second interesting point is the mention of having pastry crusts “harden” in the oven which is almost certainly a reference to blind-baking. I don’t think this is particularly early, but it serves to reinforce the impression of German sixteenth-century cuisine as sophisticated and complex.

Third, recipe #85 has the egg batter added gradually to the pastry crust. I am not sure what the effect is likely to be, but I suspect an airy, soft filling interspersed with thin browned, possibly even crunchy layers. It may well end up reminiscent of Baumkuchen and should certainly be worth trying out.

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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