Wednesday, November 30, 2016

To make Penydes

Curye on Inglysch: 1300's

I am really excited about this recipe.  One of my ancestors was a confectioner about 200 years ago, and some of that tradition has been passed down through my family.  While reading a collection of 14th century recipes, I saw this one.  The method described here is almost precisely what I was taught by my mother, who was taught by her mother, who was taught by her father, who... well, anyway.  Living history types and genealogists will tell you that sometimes, very occasionally, you just get an indescribable feeling that makes history real for just a moment.  This recipe was one such experience for me.  

This recipe is unique in the sheer amount of sugar required.  In the Middle Ages, sugar was not cheap.  Sugar cane mainly came from Cyprus or Egypt.  It was used like a spice more than it was a main ingredient.  Sugar was also thought of as a health food, like how some people today feel about chia seeds, turmeric, sea salt, etc.; just the thing for the sickly and infirm.  Most really sugary stuff was found at the apothecary.  But hey, if you're rich, you can afford to indulge while yet hale and hearty, just because it's delicious! 

To make penydes. Tak a lb. suger þat is noght clarefyed but euen colde wth water wythowten þe whyte of a egge for if it were clarefyed wyth þe white of a egg it would be clammy. And þan put it in a panne and sette it on þe fyre and gar it boyle, and whan it is sothen inow asay betwyx þi fyngers and þi thombe and if it wax styfe and perte lightly fro þi fynger þan it is enow: but loke þou stere it but lityl wyth þi spatur in hys decoccioun, for it will benyme hys drawyng. And whan it is so sothen loke þou haue redy a marbyll stone. Anoynte it wyth swetemete oyle as thyne as it may be anoynted and þan pour þi suger þeron euen as it comes fro þe fyre sethyng. Cast it on þe stone wythouten any sterynge, and whan it is a litel colde medel hem togedyr wyth bothe youre handes and draw it on a hoke of eren til it be faire and white. And þan haue redy a faire clothe on a borde, and cast on þe clothe a litell floure of ryse, and þan throw owte þi penydes in þe thyknes of a thombe with þi handes as longe as þei will reche, and þan kut þem wyth a pere scherys on þe clothe, ilk a pese as mychell as a smale ynche, and þan put þem in a cofyn and put þem in a warme place, and þan þe warmnesse schall put away away þe towghnesse: but loke ye mak þem noyt in no moyste weder nor in no reyne.

Literal Translation
To make penydes: Take a pound of sugar that is not clarified but even cold with water withouten the white of an egg for if it were clarified with the white of an egg it would be clammy.  And then put it in a pan and set it on the fire, and let it boil and when it is seethen enough [?] betwixt the fingers and the thumb, and if it wax stiff and part lightly from the finger, then it is enough.  But look [?]stir it but little with the spatula in this decoction, for it will be betake his drawing, and then it is so seethen, look thou have ready a marble stone; anoint it with sweetmeat oil as soon as it may be anointed, and then pour the sugar thereon, even as it comes from the fire seething, cast it on the stone without any stirring, and when it is a little cold, meddle them together with both your hands and draw it on a hook of iron until it be fair and white; and then have ready a fair cloth on a board and cast on the cloth a little flour of rice, and then throw out the penedes in the thickness of a thumb with the hands as long as they wilt reach and the cut them, with a pair schears on the cloth, like a piece as much as a small inch, and then put them in a coffin and put them in a warm place, and then the warmness shall put away the toughness: but look ye make them not in moist weather nor in rain.  

Okay try again:
To make penydes: Take a pound of sugar that is not clarified, but even cold with water without the white of an egg.  For if it were clarified with the white of an egg it would be clammy*.  And then put it in a pan and set it on the fire, and let it boil.  And when it is boiled enough, stick and draw it out a little bit between the fingers and the thumb.**  And if it gets stiff and parts easily from your fingers, it is done.  But be sure to stir this concoction but a little, because it will muck up the pulling process.  When it is so boiled, have ready a marble candy stone smeared all over with candy oil***.  Then pour the sugar onto it, even as it comes from the fire boiling.  Pour it on the stone without any stirring, and when it has cooled just a little bit, mix it together with both your hands and pull it on an iron hook until it turns lovely and white.  Then have ready a clean cloth on a board and sprinkle it with rice flour, then pull out the penedes/candy with your hands in the thickness of a thumb as long as you can reach and then cut them with a pair of scissors onto the cloth, little pieces about an inch long.  Then put them in a box and put them in a warm place, and then the warmness shall make it not so tough, and be sure not to make these in moist weather or when it is raining****.  

*When your sugar refining process is still a little crude, and has to be shipped from afar, it gets a bit mucky.  There is a procedure in "The good hus-wives jewell" [1597] to clarify sugar using an egg:

How to purifie and prepare Honnye and Sugar for to confite citrons and all other fruites.

Take euery time ten pound of hony, the white of twelue new laid egges, and take away the froth of them, beate them wel together with a stick, and six glasses of fair fresh water, then put them into the honny, and boyle them in a pot with moderate fire the space of a quarter of an hower or lesse, then take them from the fire skimming them well.

**DO NOT DO THIS.  Unless you are within easy range of the emergency room.  Like, are you demonstrating this for the amusement of sick children in the hospital?  Then go ahead.  If your phalange gets debrided, it is probably hot enough.  Otherwise, keep your delicate flesh out of the boiling sugar and use a candy thermometer.  Or dribble with a spoon into cold water, if you want to be old-school.

***I chose to interpret this as a flavored oil, as I saw a similar procedure in a similar recipe using rose oil.  If you're trying to be accurate to the Middle Ages, your flavored oil options include rose, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, lavender, lemon, thyme, and violet.  Good luck finding some of those.  LorAnn has an "eggnog" flavor that will pass well for nutmeg, but it is not a very strong flavor.  If you are unconcerned with accuracy, hey, use root beer oil.  Do not use alcohol based flavorings.  It is too hot, and will evaporate them on contact.  Rosewater will not do.  You must use rose oil, or rose absolute.

My health food store had both rosewater AND rose absolute, in almost identical bottles.  I nearly bought the wrong one.
****This is absolutely accurate.  Hard candy is traditionally made in the winter for very good reason: the lack of moisture in the air.  Make this while it is frosty, and you'll get a much better result.  We made candy one year in our tiny apartment of the time after we had been running the humidifier.  Blech.

This is how you should actually do it, though: 

4 C. sugar
3 T. vinegar
1 1/4 C. water
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1/2 C. white corn syrup

You can use just water and sugar, but the result looks and tastes the same.  The additives make it a little bit easier to work with, and keep it from turning grainy and weird longer.  As written, if you make these in December they will start getting weird in the spring.  Mix it all up in a pot, to give the sugar a good start at dissolving.

Turn on the heat.  Once it starts getting hot, you should stop stirring.  Bring to a rolling boil, then put the lid on for two minutes.  The steam will melt all the little sugar crystals off the side, which would otherwise cause problems.  Take the lid off, and insert a candy thermometer.  Not a meat thermometer.  In fact, before you start, you should calibrate that puppy unless you are at sea level.  At my altitude, water boils at about 203 F.  Water boils at 212 at sea level.  Hard crack is 300 F.  So I usually cook mine to 291 F.  The recipe is not very specific, so you could cook to 270 F., which will give you taffy.  If you do, you will not need a hook.  Only wusses need a hook for taffy.  I feel the original was probably cooked to hard crack.  If a dude can stick his finger in molten sugar, that dude is not a wuss.

"Call'st þu me ane cokenei?!  Ik will cutte þee sore þu bicches sone."

"Ne! Ik call þee Maister of Cokerie! COKERIE!"

When it comes to temperature, pour it immediately onto a buttered marble candy stone.  My great grandparents used the bottoms of two cast iron pots they cooled in the snow.  Wait a couple seconds, then use a metal spatula or smooth butter knife to flip the slightly cooled edges into the lava-like middle.  Keep doing that until you get a big glop of molten sugar.

 Butter your fingertips slightly, and have your kitchen drudges do the same.  If any gentles insist on participating, have them also remove any fine rings they might be wearing  Molten candy sticks to metal, and the heat transference is unpleasant.  Poke a hole in the blob with your thumb, and fill it with flavored oil, roughly 1 t. Keep bringing the sides to the middle, trying to keep the oil from running out onto the slab.  When it is just cool enough to pick up gingerly and toss up and down like a hot potato because wow that is hot, have your least favorite kitchen drudge bring it over to your buttered hook.  The drudge should put it on the hook and pull it down a foot or two, then loop it over the top and do it again until the aeration turns it from clear yellow to opaque white.

I feel I should point out that this is very very very hot, and my hands were coated in butter.  In conclusion, sorry-not-sorry for the blurriness.  

Since this is wicked hot, you will want a selection of drudges to take turns, at the beginning they can only get one or two pulls in before needing to take a break.  At a minimum, you need two drudges.  More is better, especially if they are weak and delicate.  On this occasion, I had two burly and rough handed men and one delicate flower/wuss with soft lady's fingers(me).  Bring it back to the marble slab, and pull it out to a rope.

I added a pink stripe with alchemy.  I am not prepared to explain exactly how at this time, it involves a few extra steps. Experiments with alkanet may happen in the future.

Use buttered kitchen scissors to cut off appropriately sized pieces.  Don't let the pieces touch while hot, or they will weld themselves together.  When all the pieces are cut, toss them with rice flour or powdered sugar so they won't bond.

I've had a loooooot of flavors of hard candy.  Rose oil is my new most favorite.  No one told me they didn't like them, and many came back for more.  My kids love them.  I did have to start warning people that the outside was rice flour.  Many people's initial impression was that they tasted of paste.  I don't mind it, I don't think anyone else did either after they knew what to expect.  However, if you have any money leftover after blowing all your household money on sugar, you might consider getting a little bit more and grinding it fine in your mortar and pestle to coat these instead of rice flour.

This knight wants to be healthy. 


Jana said...

Note: there is an "eggnog" flavored oil carried by Lorann. It is essentially nutmeg flavored oil. It is also one of my least favorite flavors, because it is so faint.

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

If you grated some nutmeg into the sugar and water as it was boiling, would that flavor it enough? Also, would the nutmeg specks make the candy noticeably grainy?

Jana said...

I doubt it severely. Even using concentrated oil, you have to use a hefty amount for the nutmeg flavor. I think the specks or spice would probably scorch, as well. :(

Vickie said...

When making candy, it's very common to dip your fingers in ice water, the the pot of candy boiling, and back to the bowl of ice water. It takes alot practice.
"Sweetmeats" are nuts, so an oil of almond is useful.
Please don't cook it to hardback stage, this is to be cooked to a firm-hardball stage, set in a warm room to soften up the hardness of the candy. Think after dinner mints, the way they used to be made.

Jana said...

Interesting! I haven't heard of that technique. Sounds pretty cool, possibly too cool for me!