Bisquite du Roy

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.

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About Sandie

Since I was a small child I have loved early fireplaces and the smell of smoke in an old house. However it was not until about Fifteen years ago that my journey into hearth cooking began. It all started at the Hurd House Museum in Woodbury Ct. I was the director of the Junior Docent program and among the programs each week we cooked. At about the same time a group of us started the Culinary Historians of Connecticut meeting once a month to discuss equipment used, receipt (18th century term for recipe), and anything between the late 1600 to late 1700 that had to do with hearth cooking. We were fortunate to try our hand at cooking at several Museums throughout Ct and many more private homes. We made cheese; we held a late 1600 dinner and shared our knowledge with others. Our group designrd our own tours such as the Kitchens of Old Wethersfield. In 2000 we were delighted to host the Historic Foodways group of ALFAM at the Hurd House during their conference at Mystic Seaport. We put together a great workshop of Puddings, Sausages, Brown Bread, Beverages you name it we offered it. I am now a member of the ALFAM foodways group. Then it was off to Colonial Williamsburg for the seminar The Art of 18th-Century Cooking: Farm to Hearth to Table. During the years I joined many workshops in Sturbridge Village plus their Dinner in a Country Village and breakfast at the Freeman Farm. So I was pretty much hooked on heart cooking and the 18th century way of life. I joined a wonderful group of ladies and we started the “Hive” a place to improve and grow your 18th century impression and offer research about material culture in 17070’s New England. We also travel with friends and have displays of clothing and teas at Museums in Massachusetts. Many events are held at the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Park. They have been gracious enough to let us play there and entertain and share our knowledge with their visitors. Please visit our “Hive” site if the 1700 interest you. Then the move to New Hampshire and a job at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth as the co-coordinator of the Junior Role Playing workshop and eventually cooking in front of the hearth at the Wheelwright house. Not only did I enjoy making my evening meals at the hearth to take home but also talking with the visitors. I am an entertainer after all, check out my program page. Most recently I am working at the Museum of Old York in Maine as an educator, hearth cook and organizer of the Junior Docent cooking program in the summer. See some photos in the archive file Because I do make food with the docents and serve food to the public at our Tavern Dinners I took the National Restaurant Association tests called ServSafe and now have my Certification as a Restaurant Manager. I look forward to the Museum of Old York opening again this March 2012 and getting back to the hearth and teaching, however for now I’m cooking at home and enjoying doing so.

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