Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Salty Pastry before 1600? a late night ramble

 Considering English and various other European cookery, I have heard of a few accounts of people talking about salt preserved pastry and have seen over dozens (I actually lost count) of period pastry recipes redacted from the originals with an addition of salt. What I have not noticed is any overwhelming amount of recipes with any salt in them before 1600, actually I can not even think of any off hand but won't discount there being any... in fact there may be some present in some earlier rye pastry recipes (I would have to dig through my notes to be sure).

The things is, however, I really haven't noticed salt as, at least, a stand-by ingredient in pastry recipes until the later 17th century. That said, I have played with period recipes as is and found they were not lacking in flavour without the salt. Indeed, when using butter as your main fat, which continued to be common through the 17th century as well, there is flavour enough and sometimes I even add sugar as a seasoning, but this does appear commonly enough before 1600.

Now have I always avoided adding salt? No, I shall admit that I very often fell on my common, though modern, cooking knowledge to fill in the gaps of early recipes... or should I describe them as assumed gaps. I have also referred to somewhat later recipes to try and understand earlier recipes, however this is a difficult task without better understanding changing trends in cookery of the area and there are similarities between say 1570 and 1670 but there are most definitely serious changes as well.

Using the pastry as an example, which is all it is meant to be in this post, is the noted change towards using salt but it maintains general uses for different pastes (fine paste, puff paste and rye paste) all known in the 16th century. They knew the issues with high butter content in the hotter months but also the need to keep the pastry warm enough as well and also the issues with trying to make an oil paste as opposed to butter. Take this up to even later years where lard becomes popular, and even more recent with shortening, and then the make-up of the pastry changes, though subtle over time. Familiar to us (we all know what pastry is), yet different in it's making (method and use). Of course we should not assume it is too foreign either, people ate pastry maybe with the exception of rye pastry, many pastry recipes also were a bit dense but not more so than an overworked modern pastry which is no less inedible.

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