WAFERS 101

A year ago, I bought an 18th century wafer Iron. It was a bit on the rusty, gooey side and needed a good cleaning and seasoning. The plans to get it in working order unfortunately fell by the wayside. However, it is now clean and has been seasoned by Allan, so it is time to try it out.

I looked at several receipts for wafers and came up with three different ones. I thought I’d start with the oldest and work forward in time to see how the different receipts compared. The first receipt was copied from a choice manuscript of Sir Theodore Mayerne, written in 1658, and includes “rare forms of sugar-works: according to the French mode, and English manner.”

The receipt follows.

Take Rose-water or other water, the whites of two eggs and beat them and your water, then put in flour, and make them thick as you would do butter for fritters, then season them with salt, and put in so much sugar as will make them sweet, and so cast them upon your irons being hot, and roule them up upon a little pin of wood; if they cleave to your irons, put in more sugar to your butter, for that will make them turn.

Being that this was a test of the newly seasoned iron I made a very small batch and I added orange flower water instead of rose water, a personal preference and not a huge change to the receipt. I put in enough flour so the batter was similar to a fritter batter mentioned in the receipt.

I put a trivet near the fire and shoveled hot coals under it. I rubbed the inside of the wafer iron with oil and placed it on the trivet to heat up. I waited about five minutes turning it twice.

Making wafers is a two-man job, so as Allan held the wafer iron open while I poured a spoonful of the batter in. Allan clamped down on the iron and put it on the trivet. Two things happened. I had put a bit too much batter in so it ran out the sides, and once the iron handles were let go, they instantly opened a bit. I grabbed a pot holder and clamped down hard.Untitled-1 copy

Now as I sat on a stool before the fire warming myself to a point of doneness, I remembered that the handle should have a little fastener on the end to keep it shut. Well I’ll have to get Allan to make one for the end so I won’t have to sit there roasting.

18th-century-large-iron-communion-host-wafer-press-01_02

So I sat by the fireplace turning the wafer iron over and over so both sides would get cooked. After three minutes I took the iron off the fire and put it on the plate for Allan to remove the wafer.  He needed to scrape off the overflow first then I opened the iron and the wafer came off nicely. I took a tin cone and wrapped the wafer around it and we started the process all over again.

Untitled-2

This time I did not put as much batter in for the second one. I also let it sit over the coals longer. The first one would not crisp up and stay curled around the tin form. We timed the second one to five minutes, which meant I had to sit there longer. Allan did run off and grab a large poster board and tried to shield me from the hearth fire; however, his hands began to get hot as the board warmed up and he bailed. But the five minutes seemed to be the magic number and the second wafer was great.

I went to put the last of the batter on the heated iron and found that it had gotten very thick so I added a bit of orange flower water to thin it out. It made a perfect wafer and baked over the fire for the allotted five minutes and came off the iron and rolled on the tin cone just as it should.  Now I had to leave the room, and headed to the glassed-in porch to cool myself down. I gazed at the stars and saw the big dipper in the sky pouring its batter of star dust out among the universe, a lovely cold night. My red face began to return to a normal color.

Back in the house, I considered my experience of making wafers. The batter had made four wafers. The first one was not cooked and the others were fine. Each wafer had a bit of dark iron on them from the seasoning process. I think after the iron makes a few more wafers that will disappear. And no one would want to sit by the fire and hold a wafer iron for five minutes. An alteration to the wafer iron handle is a must.

Now the first wafer that was soft, so I went to set on the trivet to see if it would dry out and I dropped it in the fire. Allan and I tasted the second one. It was good; perhaps a bit too much sugar for our taste, however, it had a nice crunch. Allan said it would be much better filled with cream. Me, I’d dip it in dark chocolate.

Untitled-3 copy

 

So the first receipt gets thumbs up and so does the seasoning of the wafer iron. Stay tuned as I will again use the wafer iron with a receipt from Charles Carter’s cookery book, 1730, a very different batter than this.

Sandie

“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.”

Vincent van Gogh

PS

If my neighbors were looking at me on the porch they might have seen steam rising from my head.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , by Sandie. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

5 thoughts on “WAFERS 101

  1. Sandie: I really enjoy your stories/experiences. Thank you for sharing .

    I did participate with the Culinary Historians years ago. I’m very interested in hearthcooking, but I do not have a fireplace to work with, so I do not “practice” the art.

    Blue Slope Country Museum is a small museum of Agricultural history in Franklin CT–SE corner.

    Keep up the good reporting,

    Sandy Staebner

  2. Sandie, you have a wonderful conversational style of writing that is so pleasurable to read. I loved your analogy about the stars! The cone information was delightful as well. What did your cookbooks suggest as fillings?

  3. Hi Sandie, I am so excited you finally got to use the wafer iron-I’ve been waiting to hear how that went. Sounds like it went perfectly. I can’t wait to hear about the “newer” recipes. I make pizzelles in a modern iron which I guess are similar. I’m thinking I might try playing with the older recipes in my iron.

    Thanks for the story and inspiration!

    Cindi

  4. Excellent article! Just got an old communion wafer iron occasions. Really enjoy your work!

    FYI. In this post,, Spell Check did not pick up the difference between “recipe” and “receipt” on multiple occassions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *