Last weekend was a busy one; I spent two days at the Minute Man National Park. Saturday was a workshop on 18th Century shifts and Sunday was a two-hour lecture on Tavern libations and songs. At all the Hive events, everyone brings something to have with coffee at the meet and greet portion of the day. I decided it was time to go back to Pepys at the Table and pick out a receipt. I found an entry marked March 18th, 1664, it looked simple enough to make and it was just a few days off from March 10th.
“So to my brother’s, and to the church and with the grave maker chose a place for my brother to lie in, just under my mother’s pew. But to see how a man’s tombes are at the mercy of such a fellow, that for 6d he would (as his own words were) “I will justle them together but I will make room for him” – speaking of the fullness of the middle Isle where he was to lie
…. At noon my wife, though in pain, comes; but I being forced to go home, she went back with me — where I dressed myself and so did Besse; and so to my brother’s again — whither though invited as the custom is at about 1 or 2 a-clock, they came not till 4 or 5. But at last, one after another they came — many-more than I bid; and my reckoning that I bid 120, but I believe there was nearer 150. Their service was six biscuits apiece and what they pleased of burnt claret — my Cosen Joyce Norton kept the wine and cakes above – and did give them out to them that served, who had white gloves given them.”
It was the custom, in England to provide biscuits for the mourners to take away, people attending the house during the period immediately following the death and funeral. This persisted into the Victorian era. I looked through several of my cookery books and found in Robert May’s, The accomplisht cook, 1685, a receipt for Bisquite du Roy, that I thought would be similar to the biscuits served at Pepys’s brother’s funeral, and something I could take along to the Hive.
After I read the receipt from May, I figured out how to make a smaller amount of biscuits. So I first assembled all my ingredients, and brought out my collection of little tins. It is a rather simple receipt, eggs, sugar, flour, rose water, and coriander seeds.
The important thing here is to whip the batter for a long time, so you incorporate air to help it rise, as it has no leavening.
On the hearth, I have my iron kettle warming, and when the batter was poured into the tins I was ready to put coals under the kettle. In went the biscuits, and the top placed on, and covered with coals.
After 10 minutes, I turned the kettle half-way around, and after five more minutes I took a peak and was glad I did as the biscuits were ready to take out.
With the biscuits packed in the car, off I drove to the workshop, and received may compliments on my biscuits.