18th Century Pasties: Addendum.


Here’s an interesting passage from William Ellis’s 1750 book, “The Country Housewife’s Family Companion” (page 65). Ellis speaks of the virtuous timing of slaughtering a “porker” prior to harvest. The scrap pieces of meat could be used in making portable meat pies or pasties for the harvest workers.

“…our Housewife takes [the pieces of meat], and chops them into Bits, about the Bigness of a Pidgeon’s Egg; then peppers and salts them pretty high, for at this Time of Year this is more than ordinarily necessary to be done, because these Pyes or Pasties are to be kept for some Days for being eaten cold. This done, make a regular Mixture of the fat and lean Pieces, if there be not fat Pieces enough, the Pye will eat dry, and if there be too much Fat, it will be apt to make the Harvest-men sick. Now with these fleshy and bony Bits of Meat, several large Pyes may be made, and baked, either in raised Paste, in earthen Pans, or in pewter Dishes, or in the Shape of turnover two-corner’d Pasties, and thus they become a most necessary and convenient Food at this Time of Year, for Farmers Families in particular, because the cold Pyes and Pasties are a portable, wholesome, and satiating Victuals for Breakfast or Dinner.”

For a nice pork pie recipe check out the recipe in our earlier post “A Pork Pie with a Standing Crust.”


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18th Century Pasties, Part Two


As I began my quest to understand the 18th century pasty, I figured the first thing I needed to do was to leave behind all of my modern notions of what they were. I needed to travel light, leaving plenty of room for the period recipes and definitions and between-the-lines clues that I would gather as I combed through my resources. I visited many of the old cookbooks, dictionaries, journals, and magazines, looking for signs leading to a uniform definition, so that I could recommend the historically accurate method of making pasties. Whenever I hit a dead end,  I’d consult the secondary sources for hints that I may have overlooked.

After studying all the souvenirs I collected along the way, I decided to return home, leaving the path for others to explore. I did so not with some sense of defeat, but rather with the somewhat enigmatic conclusion that there simply is no definitive answer…no single historically accurate method of making an 18th century pasty.

pourThe Oxford English Dictionary claims pasties were pies made without a dish. This same definition can be traced back to 18th century dictionaries. Yet, the most commonly published recipes in 18th century cookbooks utilized baking dishes.

The Oxford Companion to Food attempts to delineate between pies and pasties by claiming either a multiplicity or singularity of  ingredients used in each dish. Yet you look across the terrain of period recipes and you’ll find the two terms, pie and pasty, are often used interchangeably (The Country Housewife Family Companion, for example, by William Ellis).

Hannah Glasse recommended the use of a baking dish. William Rabisha, in his 1682 cookbook, “The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected” suggested crimping together two pieces of pastry. Other authors recommended a tin patty pan.

Some pasties were baked. Others were fried (e.g., Charles Carter’s recipe, below, from his 1749 cookbook “The London and Country Cook“).

Pasty crusts were often highly decorated — one of many showpieces that might adorn a multi-course meal. Pasties were also made in a free-form crust to be taken into the field or on a journey to be eaten cold, out of hand. Ellis copies the following pasty recipe from Rabisha:

Rabisha’s Way to bake Brawn to be eaten cold.–Take (says he) your raw lean brawn, that is not useful to collar, and as much fat bacon, mince them small together, and beat them in a mortar; beat a good handful of sage with them; season them with some pepper, salt, and beaten ginger; pour in a little vinegar, and break in a couple of eggs; you may make a cold butter paste in a sheet form, and lay this your prepared meat on it; put in butter, and a few bay-leaves on the top, and so close up your pasty for baking.

(Brawn is any meat suitable for roasting, but often is the breast and/or leg of fowl.)

John Mollard, in his 1836 cookbook, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy,” includes a recipe for a “Puff for a Journey.”

Given all the variations here, I suppose the Pork Pie I wrote about in an earlier post and that was featured in one of our earlier videos could technically be called a pasty as well.

So which style of pasty is most historically accurate? They all are. It seems the common denominator between all pasties is simply two things: a crust and a meat filling….oops, then again, there were fruit pasties. Ok, it seems there is ONE common denominator: crust.  And that takes us back to the O.E.D. which explains that the word “pasty” can be traced back through the Old French language to words from the ancient Latin dialect meaning, “something made of paste.”

I feel as though I’m walking in circles.

Why all the variations? It could be due to possible regional differences; possibly socio-economic differences as well. I mentioned in my last post that the beloved modern pasties that exist in similar form in insular regions throughout the United States, Latin America, Australia, and South Africa, are culinary descendants of the Cornish pasty of the Cornwall region of England. While the folded-over meat pastry may be the most common form of the pasty today, it appears it was only one of many forms in the 18th century.

Here’s our take on a recipe for a delicious meat pasty from an earlier version of Mollard’s cookbook:

Puffs with Forcemeat of Vegetables


About 1 pound of veal, coarsely chopped (Beef will also do)
2 ounces Fat Bacon (modern-day salt pork or jowl bacon), coarsely chopped
1 cup each, green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, onion, parsley (all fresh), coarsely chopped
Salt and Pepper
1 cup Bread Crumbs
1 Egg Yolk
1/2 cup Cream

Puff Pastry Dough (see our previous blog post and video on making a puff paste)

Egg Wash

Lard, a sufficient amount for deep frying.


Combine the veal and the vegetables in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper.

fry1Preheat a large skillet or spider and fry the fat bacon for 2 or 3 minutes until much of the fat is rendered. Add the meat and vegetable mix and fry for about 5 minutes. Return the mix to the bowl, add the bread crumbs, and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolk and cream together. Add this mixture to the meat and vegetable mix, and stir it until it is well incorporated.

spoon1Roll out your puff pastry dough until it’s about 1/8″ thick, keeping it as square as possible. Then cut it into about 6″ squares. Once the meat and vegetable mix has cooled, spoon a portion of it onto the middle of each pastry square.

pinchedge1Brush two of the edges of each pastry square with egg wash, fold the square over the meat mixture so that it forms a triangle, and crimp the edges closed.

deepfry1In a cooking pot or kettle, preheat the lard to about 350-degrees (F). carefully add the pasties, 3 or 4 at a time, and fry for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. You’ll want to keep the lard around 350-degrees. Any lower, and the pasties will be greasy. Any higher, and the crust may become golden brown on the outside, but remain doughy on the inside.  Drain on sheets of paper or on a cloth.


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18th Century Pasties, Part One

Puff Paste

Say the word “Pasty” (pronounced “past-ee”), and you’ll likely receive a passionate Pavlovian response from hungry folks from several regions of the U.S. (i.e., Michigan’s U.P., or parts of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Montana, and California). Echoes of the lip-smacking cheers reverberate across the globe from distant parts in Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. But the loudest ruckus of all comes from enthusiasts in a western region of England; whose fierce pride is expressed through laws and regulations that define authenticity while protecting the tried-and-true recipes of old — making the Cornish Pasty a National Heritage Food (and some would argue, a national treasure more valuable than even the Crown Jewels).

While other forms of hardy meat turnovers exist elsewhere around the world, the pasties so beloved in the regions mentioned above, find their common culinary roots in English cooking.  Food historians tell us that the free-form pasty co-migrated with 19th and 20th-century Cornish tin miners as the tin mines at home dried up and other hard-rock employment opportunities opened abroad.

Pasties have been a popular dish on English tables for centuries. The Oxford English Dictionary claims the earliest use of the word in English literature was in 1300. The OED’s definition of a pasty matches most modern expectations of the dish: a meat filling, enclosed in a crust of pastry, and baked without a dish. I have traced similar definitions at least as far back as 1764. Earlier definitions seem to be a bit more generic or obscure, describing a pasty as “a great pie” or “a pie made with flesh or fruit.”

An 18th Century Pasty with a "Proper Paste"

I think it’s important, however, to try to consider such definitions apart from our modern expectations. For instance, “baked without a dish” could mean the pie used a standing crust instead. But when one examines 18th century pasty recipes, contrary to contemporary definitions, a completely different sort of dish takes shape: most often it’s a meat pie prepared in an earthen dish that is partially lined with a thick puff paste and then topped with the same.

Now that’s not to say that the free-form versions of the pasty are an inaccurate option for historical re-enactors and foodies. I’ll share some period recipes free-form pasties in my next post. But today, I want to give you a typical 18th-century recipe for a beef pasty that uses what some cookbooks called “a proper paste” (I say that at the risk of raising the hackles of many free-form fans).

Our recipe comes from Charles Carter’s 1749 cookbook, “The London and Country Cook.

While most 18th century recipes were for venison pasties, other types of meats were used (e.g., beef, pork, mutton, and poultry). Most period pasty recipes also call for either neck, shoulder, or breast meat (brisket), while a few call for rump or sirloin. The previous cuts are from the front end of the animal, and are usually more flavorful than those from the rear. They are, however, also tougher due to high levels of collagen or connective tissue between the strands of muscle.

Collagen is broken down through slow roasting or boiling. Some of the best modern barbecue brisket can be roasted for 12 hours or more. If you try to roast your meat too quickly, it will turn out too tough to eat. Some 18th century recipes for venison pasties argue against what was apparently conventional wisdom: that one had to be careful not to overcook venison. To the contrary, these recipes claim that when it comes to pasties, you can’t overcook the meat. I suspect, that is why the pastry crusts on these pies are so extraordinarily thick — up to 1/2″ thick…before it’s baked! One such recipe even suggested covering the thick paste with buttered paper to prevent it from scorching due to the long baking time.

Many period recipes also suggest marinating and aging meat for several days, as well as beating it to a pulp with a rolling pin. This was done to further tenderize the meat. Beef was likely much tougher then than it is today. Most of the meat sold in U.S. markets is aged prior to hitting the store shelves, so we skipped this step…it’s another example of how modern food developments have made exact historic food reproduction difficult, if not in some cases impossible.

Carter’s recipe also uses cochineal — a red dye (“Natural Red 4″) derived from parasitic scale insects living off cacti throughout warmer climates. Carter’s recipe was the only one I found that used this ingredient. We’ve eliminated it from our rendition primarily because many people today are highly allergic to it. If you want to try it, you can purchase it online.

18th-Century Beef Pasty


1 to 1-1/2 pound Beef, cut into 1-1/2″ to 2″ chunks (we used chuck roast (or shoulder) …in honor of Charles Carter!)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon each, Salt & Pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup Burgundy wine
3 to 4 Tablespoons Suet, grated or crumbled fine (multiple period recipes suggest using butter instead)

1 Puff Paste (if you need a recipe for puff paste, watch our video or read our earlier post.)

1 pound Beef Bones, cut or broken into chunks
salt and pepper



Several hours before you wish to serve your pie, or even the night before, combine the beef, salt, pepper, and wine in a ceramic or glass bowl. Set aside to marinate.

Preheat your oven to 350-degrees (F).


Roll out your puff pastry dough to between 3/8″ and 1/2″. Lay an inverted pie pan on top of your pastry and cut out a circle slightly larger than the pan. In the center of this circle, cut out a hole approximately 2″ in diameter. Save the plug from this hole.

crustTurn your pan back over, and with the larger scraps of pastry, line only the walls (not the bottom) of your pan, keeping the pastry about 3/8″ thick.

decorCombine and roll out the remaining pastry scraps until it is about 1/8″ thick. Cut out your decorations from this piece of pastry dough, and arrange them on the top of your pastry round.

suetFill your pastry-lined dish with your meat mixture. Top the meat mixture with the suet or butter. (If you are planning to use suet, be sure to first read our post on what suet is and what it is not.) Finally, cover the meat with the pastry round, and replace the plug that was cut from the center hole.

bonesPrior to placing the pasty in the oven, place your beef bones into a cooking pot, season with salt and pepper, and pour in just enough water to cover them. This will be placed in the oven and baked alongside the pasty. This will make a lear or thin gravy that will be poured into the pie once it’s done baking. Other recipes suggest placing the bones in a pot over medium heat and simmering the bones until the liquid is reduced by half.

Bake the pasty (and lear pot) for 2 to 2-1/2 hours. If your crust looks as though it’s getting too dark, cover it with paper.

pourOnce the pie has finished baking, remove the center plug from the crust. Strain the lear, discarding the bones, and pour the lear into the hole. Then replace the plug. Allow this to set for about 15 minutes before serving.

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Standing-Crust Pie Recipes

A Standing Crust (with removable lid)

A Standing Crust (with removable lid)

In my last (rather lengthy) post, I shared a recipe for a large standing crust from Mrs. Frazer’s 1791 cookbook, “The Practice of Cookery.” Rather than leave you standing there with an empty pie shell, I thought it would be good to fill it with a sampling of 18th-century recipes that call for just such a pastry.

Confession: I’ve made only the vegetable pie, but I find the other recipes to be rather enticing. The notes I’ve included beneath each recipe are based on previous experiences.

1. From Sarah Martin’s 1795 cookbook, “The New Experienced English Housekeeper“:

Note: Contrary to this recipe, in that previous post I mentioned as well as in our video on making a large standing crust, we followed the advice of another period cookbook by baking the lid separately on the back of a tin plate.  Also, a fricassee sauce is usually made by first sauteing meat (the word finds its origins in the meanings “to cut” and “to fry”). Our version in the video above is meatless.

2. From the 1774 version of Hannah Glasse’s book, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy“:

Notes: “Olives” in this and other such recipes are rolled-up pieces of meat. “Collops” are thinly sliced steaks or medallions of meat. The recipe suggests tenderizing the collops by beating them with the back of a knife blade.

Also, if you plan to use suet, be sure it is really suet (kidney fat) and not just hard muscle fat. Both types of fat are called suet nowadays, but they are very different — a difference that was apparently understood in the 18th century. Muscle fat will impart a very “beefy” flavor to the dish, whereas, kidney fat has very little flavor (as long as it’s fresh). Muscle fat will also produce a very greasy-textured pie, whereas kidney fat will result in a more moist and solid (when allowed to cool) texture. Ask your butcher specifically for kidney fat. If you can’t find true suet at your butcher’s shop, you can purchase processed suet on line.

There is a series of posts on SavoringThePast.net that cover the topic of suet. We also have a video on suet on our YouTube channel.

Finally, orange-blossom water can often be found in middle-eastern food marts, or it can be purchased on-line

3. From the 1796 version of Susannah Carter’s “The Frugal Housewife“:

Note: The aforementioned comments on suet apply here as well. Also, beef can be substituted for venison.

4. From the 1800 printing of Hannah Glasse’s, “The Complete Confectioner“:

Note: The exact size of a penny loaf of bread is indeterminable. It varied according to the current market price of wheat as well as the type of flour being used. I suggest starting with any 12 to 16-ounce loaf. Now I realize that is quite a range, but if you think that’s something, one 18th-century “Table of Assize for White Bread”  regulated the size of a 2-penny loaf, depending on the current price of wheat, from between 1-pound, 15 ounces, to a mere 9-ounces.

In addition, while the recipe isn’t this specific, I also suggest using only the crumb of the bread and not the crust. Grating or “chipping” (cutting) the crust off a loaf of bread before using it as an ingredient was a very common practice.

If you try any of these recipes, please let us know by leaving a comment!

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A Large Standing Crust

A Grand Standing Paste, in the painting "February" by Joachim von Sandrart - 1642

A Grand Standing Paste, in the painting “February” by Joachim von Sandrart – 1642

In earlier posts, I offered recipes for a small standing crust — perfect for individual-serving meat pies, a short crust, as well as a puff pastry. These recipes were versions of the three types of crusts used probably most often in 18th century cooking.  The basic distinctions between these three crust types have to do with the methods employed to make them. Standing crusts were typically made with boiling water, while the ingredients in short pastes and puff pastes were kept cold. In addition, the fat ingredient in a standing crust was melted and completely incorporated, while it was cut in cold into short pastes and laminated between layers of dough in puff paste.

There were many other types of crusts from the English kitchen, but most, if not all, could still be classified by one of these methods; their differences were defined primarily by the ingredients used.

Standing crusts were likely the oldest of the three pastry types. The crust of a standing pie served as its own cooking, serving, and storage vessel. Sometimes these pastries were partially baked before being filled, in which case, the pie’s lid was often baked separately. Other recipes suggested filling the pastry prior to baking. The lids were most often sealed to the walls and a hole was cut in the top of the pie. If the pie was to be served immediately, a gravy was poured through the lid’s hole after baking. As in many cases, if the pie was to be stored for later consumption, the pie was filled with either clarified butter or suet to keep the air away from the pie’s contents. Pies were reportedly kept this way for weeks. When it came time to serve the pie, they were reheated, and the suet was poured out and replaced with a gravy.

When served at the table, the crusts of standing pies were often emptied of their contents just like other serving bowls. The crusts themselves were seldom eaten, but rather either discarded or returned to the kitchen to be used at a later date as a thickening agent in soups and stews.

The recipe I share today is for a larger standing crust from Mrs. Frazer’s 1791 cookbook, “A Practice of Cookery.” There are many 18th-century recipes for standing crusts from which to choose. This recipe, however, is a bit unique in a couple of ways: first, it makes a smaller batch of dough — most recipes were intended to make either a very large pie or several mid-sized pies; and second, this recipe is fairly specific regarding the measures of ingredients, whereas most recipes depended greatly on the cook’s experience and ability to judge whether the proper texture and consistency had been reached. This unusual clarity found in Mrs. Frazer’s cookbook may have been due to the likelihood that the book was written and published both as a reference for household and professional cooks as well as a textbook for her culinary students at Edinburgh.

One caveat: I’ve adjusted the measure of ingredients from Mrs. Frazer’s recipe to make one 8″ to 9″ pie. If I erred anywhere in my interpretation of the recipe, it was in failing to take into account that Mrs. Frazer use of Scots measures instead of English measures. A Scots pound of butter (and this rule applies only to butter) is equivalent to 22 English ounces. So instead of 6 oz. (1-1/2 sticks) of butter as I suggest below, you may wish to use 8 oz (2 sticks) instead. Either way (6 oz. or 8 oz.) the fat to flour ratio falls easily within the range of ratios from the numerous other 18th century standing crust recipes I found.

The method I propose in constructing this standing crust is different from that of Mrs. Frazer’s. There were two basic methods of raising a standing crust. I’ll draw upon my experience as a potter to describe both methods.

Jon is using an improvised pastry dolly to raise this small standing crust.

Jon is using an improvised pastry dolly to raise this small standing crust.

The first is what I call a pinch-pot method in which the base and walls of the crust are pinched, squeezed, and pulled from one lump of dough. We used this method (with the assistance of an improvised pastry dolly) in our Standing Crust Meat Pie video. Depending on the type of fat you use (check out my earlier post, “A Pork Pie with a Standing Crust”), you may find it easier to construct the crust while the dough is still warm.

The second method is what I call “slab building,”  where the dough is rolled out and cut into the separate pieces needed to make the final crust (i.e., the base, the lid, and the wall pieces). All of that is done while the dough is still warm. The pieces are then given the chance to cool down completely — even over night. They are then “glued” together using egg white.

This second method seems to offer more control (as well as much less frustration) over the first method. While slab building is a legitimate 18th century pastry technique, is seems to be treated by most authors who mention it as a technique used by lesser experienced cooks.

I embrace my inexperience.

In my experience and opinion, slab building results in a neater, “less vulgar” (as the 18th century culinary critics would put it) finished appearance.

A Standing Crust (with removable lid)

12 ounces Water
6 oz. Butter,  or 1-1/2 sticks (*See my caveat above)
6 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Egg
1 Egg Yoke

1 Egg White to be used as a wash during and after construction.


Put the water and butter in a sauce pan (or pipkin) and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, egg, and egg yoke.

Once the water and butter have come to a boil, add it to the flour mixture and mix it well with a spoon. Once the dough has cooled down to the point that you can handle it, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes. Cover the dough and allow it to rest for another 5 minutes.

cutting base

Divide your dough into three equal portions. Take the first lump and roll it out in a large circle about 3/8″ thick.  Use a plate or a pan (we used our 8″ Cake Ring) as a template to cut out a circle 8″ to 9″ in diameter. This is the base to your pie. Repeat this with the second piece of dough to form your lid. Any scrap pieces can be worked back into the third lump of dough.


Roll out the last lump of dough into a strip about 3/8″ to 1/2″ thick and 2-1/2″ wide. This strip should be between 25″ and 29″ long.

Cover your pieces with a couple of layers of cloth, or wrap them gently in plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Allow them to cool completely, even over night. They will change in texture as they cool.


Whatever dough scraps remain can be combined and rolled out to about 1/8″ thickness. Cut out or stamp your decorations from this piece of dough.

twistdeocrationsAlso cut some 1/2″-wide strips from this 1/8″-thick dough, and twist the pieces into ropes. Wrap your decoration pieces in plastic or cloth as you did previously with the larger pieces.


Once the pieces has rested for several hours, preheat your oven to 450-degrees (F), and begin construction by placing the base of your crust on a paper-lined baking sheet. Brush egg white on top of the base all along its edge.


Set the wall piece on top of the base where you brushed on the egg white. Trim the piece’s end so its two ends meet flush together. Be sure to brush this freshly cut end with egg white, then press the ends together.


Brush the backs of your decoration pieces and apply them to the outside surface of the base and walls. Be sure to cover the wall seam with one of your decorations. Don’t forget to decorate your lid as well. When you’re finished decorating, brush the entire outer surface with egg white.


Fill your crust with uncooked rice. This will help support the walls while the crust bakes.

Place your lid on a separate paper-lined baking sheet, or use a tin plate like we did.

Be sure your oven is heated to the 450-degrees. I tried this at 375-degrees and was sorely disappointed to find that my crust walls slumped. A number of period recipes offer this same warning. Bake your crust and lid for 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s time to remove your crust from the oven when you begin to see the slightest amount of color on the peaks of your decorations.

halfbaked2Once you remove the rice, your crust is ready to be filled. it can be used for meat pies, vegetable pies, or sweet pies.  The final baking will be done at a lower temperature — around 350-degrees (F), usually for about an hour.

In my next post, I’ll share with you a recipe for Vegetable Pie from Sarah Martin’s 1795 cookbook, “The New Experienced English-House-Keeper.”

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Parmesan Cheese Tart

  Ok, I am obviously some kind of cheese pie freak, and I admit this is my third cheesecake type recipe in the last couple of months, but you will just have to bear with me.


In the past, we made a couple of 18th century dishes that were called cheesecakes, but they were very different from the familiar modern cheesecake. 18th century cookbooks seem to have a lot of recipes that are called cheesecake, a few even containing cheese, but most do not come very close to what we now call a cheesecake. This dish comes a bit closer than most, but with a interesting twist: Parmesan.

The recipe is from William Rabisha’s The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected (1682)

To Make a Cheese Tart

This recipe makes quite a large tart so we are going to cut the recipe in half.

Parmesan Cheese Tart


  • 6 oz Parmesan cheese, grated fine
  • 3 whole eggs plus 3 additional egg yolks.
  • 4 oz of butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp of powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 of a nutmeg, grated (about 1/2 tsp)
  • 3 oz fresh bread crumbs (the crumb of any white bread, crust removed, and pulsed in a food processor will work perfectly)
  • 3 Tbs of sugar
  • somewhere around 2 to 3 cups of heavy cream


In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients, except for the cream, and stir with a spoon until well incorporated. Add as much cream as necessary to make a thin batter. The amount of cream needed will vary depending on the type of bread you use. The goal is to have a batter that you can pour — like pancake batter. The cheese and the bread crumbs will make the batter lumpy.

For a savory pie cut back the sugar to 1 or 2 Tablespoons. If you want it a sweeter pie,  add 3, even 4 tablespoons.

Pour the batter into pie pans lined with a short paste. This recipe filled one of our 9″ pie pans with enough left over to fill a tart made in our pewter bowl. You can place optional strips of puff paste across the top.  Finish by sprinkling a little sugar on top just before you place the pie in the oven, or add some sugar after baking and brown it with a salamander or torch.

savoringthepast_cheese tart 5

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. Larger pies will take longer than smaller ones. The puff paste will puff up and brown, indicating when the pie is done.

The finished tart has a texture similar to that of a modern American cheesecake but is not nearly as sweet. You can take detect in this cheesecake the subtle bite of the Parmesan Cheese, but it’s not overpowering — perfect for the addition of fruit.

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A Quire of Paper

Here’s one more recipe for 18th century pancakes from John Farley’s 1783 cookbook, “The London Art of Cookery“:

A variation of this recipe can also be found in Mary Randolph’s 1824 cookbook “The Virginia Housewife.”

A “quire” is a term borrowed from printers and bookbinders meaning a stack of paper that is folded and bound into a book. These pancakes  were the forerunner to modern crepes.

Once again, precision was apparently not the point to this old recipe. Here is our take:

A Quire of Paper

A Quire of Paper

A Quire of Paper


3 T All-Purpose Flour
1/2 t Salt
2-3 t Sugar
1 t Powdered Ginger
3 Eggs
1 c Cream
4 oz Butter (melted)
3 T Sack (Sherry Wine)
1 T Orange Blossom Water (available online or at Middle-eastern food markets)
Butter for frying


In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients until smooth. If you have lumps in your liquid that won’t whisk smooth, it’s likely the butter. Try warming your liquid. Just don’t warm it up too much, or you will end up cooking it.

Whisk about half your flour into your cream mixture. Continue adding the remaining flour, little by little, whisking the whole time until the batter is smooth.

Heat your frying pan over medium-high heat, and melt a little butter. Some of the old recipes suggest using clarified butter, pouring off any excess before you add the batter. Ladle about 1/8 to 1/4 c. of batter into your pan.

That was the easy part.

Farley suggests cooking them on one side only. Other recipes suggest this as well. While one or two recipes even suggest tilting the pan up to the fire to cook the top — something I don’t recommend. A number of recipes talked about the more skilled cooks being able to flip the pancake with a jerk of the wrist.

Pancake flipping technique

Pancake flipping technique

This skill is celebrated even today throughout parts of Europe in the great pancake races on Shrove Tuesday where contestants race each other through the streets while flipping a pancake in their frying pans.

One detail is prevalent in many of the 18th century pancake recipes: the pan should be clean, hot, and oiled. If you’re going to flip your pancakes like we did, you’re likely going to need some practice, so you may wish to make a double batch of batter along with an extra dose of patience.

These pancakes were intended to be fried until brown and crispy. As you stack them, sprinkle a little sugar between each layer. To serve, fold them in half, top them with a little more sugar and some fresh lemon juice. An optional sauce can be made with a little sack (sherry wine), sugar, and melted butter.

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