Let’s learn history in the kitchen! Medieval little spiced pears cakes

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By Daniela

Lately we are organising historical cooking workshops at some schools and therefore we are specialising in ancient medieval recipes revisited for modern children taste. The following recipe has had much success among children and can also be adapted to intolerants to dairy products by using oil instead of butter and eliminating milk from the topping. Of course it would be possible to prepare the entire recipe with the tools of the past, but for practical reasons combined with a chronic lack of time, I used the mixer to make the dough.

Ingredients for 10 little cakes or a big one:

for the dough: 500 g flour, 220 g water, 1 cube of fresh yeast, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 eggs, 60 g butter, 1 pinch of salt;

for the filling: 5 pears, 3 tablespoons honey, saffron, cinnamon;

for the topping: 1 egg, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons milk, cinnamon.

Waxed paper, paper moulds, pastry brushes.

 

Start by preparing the dough.

In a bowl put two tablespoons of water, a cube of fresh yeast and 2 tablespoons sugar. Let rise in a warm place. In the mixer’s bowl put flour and salt and then add the yeast, eggs and butter and work for about two minutes until the dough is smooth and firm. If the mixture is too liquid, add a little more flour. Let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume.

 

Meanwhile, prepare the pears.

Peel the pears and remove the seeds, cut into thick slices and then into squares. Cook for a few minutes in a pan with a little water until they are tender but not too soft. Drain and dilute honey in their cooking juice. Add the spices, then reduce to a syrup and pour over the cooked pears. Let cool.

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Preheat the oven to 180 °. Form 10 balls from the dough and then divide each of them into two parts, one of which is about two-thirds of the other. Cut 10 squares from the waxed paper and roll out a ball of dough into each square. You’ll have to get 10 circles for the paper moulds. Put a bit of pears in the centre and then close with ten circles made with the rest of the dough. Seal the edges with the tines of a fork and make a small hole in the centre of the cakes that will act as a chimney for releasing the steam.

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In a bowl, beat the egg, then add honey and milk. Brush this mixture over the cakes and then cook in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until golden.

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Medieval Curiosities

 

These little cakes, that for us “modern” are an excellent dessert or a popular snack, for medieval people were a wonderful accompaniment for meat dishes.

A typical medieval dessert could instead consist of “confetti candies” (sugar coated spices) or sugar-coated fruits.

Spices were ubiquitous in the upper classes’ medieval kitchen, they cost a fortune and it was thought that they had many virtues (which, moreover, has been largely confirmed by current medical science).

Sugar was considered a spice too and had an exorbitant price, so it was far cheaper to use honey.

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