Friday 30 March 2012

Torta in balconata

At the Loevestein event we only had some 'special' medieval food during the opening hours. We enjoyed it ourselves, but also shared it with the visitors. I had made some 'caliscioni' -  a kind of almond cookies with rose water and a 'torta bianca' - a cake with cream cheese and again rose water. I also made a tiered dried fruit pie for the first time. It tasted great and will certainly be included in our favourite medieval dishes list. All the mentioned recipes came from the book  'The medieval kitchen - recipes from France and Italy' by Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban and Silvano Serventi, which is in itself a collection of 13-14th century recipes from other sources (ISBN 0226706850).

Below I will give the recipe of the Tiered dried fruit pie or Torta in balconata. The original source is the Libro di Cucina del secolo XIV by Ludovico Frato:

Tiered torta for twelve persons. Take the whitest flour you can get, three libre in quantity, and take two ouncie of sugar and take a libra of almonds, and thirty-six good walnuts, and half a libra of raisins, and twenty-five dates, and half a quarto of cloves; and take a good quantity of almond milk; take the flour, mpistened with water to make it very thick, and take the pan and grease it well with oil; make a crust from the flour with crushed sugar and the aforementioned spices; take the walnuts, then the chopped dates and well-washed raisins, and the red cloves; and put a crust between each layer; and put a crust on top of all these things to make a torta. [English translation of original text].

To make it more simple:
For the pate brisee (the dough for the crust): 450 gram flour, 200 gram butter, 2/3 cup water, a teaspoon salt.
For the almond milk: 150 gram blanched almonds, 1 litre warm water.
For the filling: 25 gram sugar, 75 gram raisins, 1/3 teaspoon ground cloves, 18 shelled walnuts, 13 dates.

Cut the butter in small pieces and rub it through the flour until the mixture has the consistency of sawdust. Dissolve the salt in half of the water and add to the flour mixture. Combine quickly with your fingertips until the dough comes together. If necessary add more water. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.

Make the almond milk: Put the blanched almonds and half of the warm water together in a grinder and grind for several minutes. Put the mixture through a strainer with a double layer of cheese cloth and use the almond grit with the other half of the warm water to grind again for some minutes in the grinder. Also put this through the strainer with the cheese cloth. The almond milk will be more than you will need for the torta.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Divide the dough into three parts. Roll the first into a circle large enough to line a 22 cm tart pan. On your work surface sprinkle the pastry with some of the sugar and the cloves and press them into the dough with the rolling pin. Line the tart pan and arrange the walnuts on the sugared pastry. Sprinkle liberally with almond milk. Divide the second third of the dough into two and roll each into a thin circle that will fit into the tart. Sprinkle with sugar and cloves, and press them into the dough. Place this on top of the walnuts. Coarsely chop the dates and arrange them on top op the dough; sprinkle liberally with almond milk. Roll out and sugar the other half of the dough as before and place it on top of the dates. Arrange the raisins on top of this layer and sprinkle liberally with almond milk. Roll out the remaining dough and cover the pie, sealing the edges well. bake for at least an hour.

According to the authors, medieval doctors viewed this type of food as the healthiest kind, because it is full of dried fruits, therefore having great strengthening qualities. Indeed our youngest child had suffered from a cold and recovered quickly in the days after...
Because the torta is very solid, you need only serve a small portion. It is particularly apt for winter meals; this is also when the best dried fruits from the previous season are available.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

New costumes for some St. Thomasguild members

Children grow. Which means that we continuously have to make new costumes for them to fit their new size. While my youngest son benefits from the outgrown clothes of the eldest; the eldest profits from getting new clothes each time he has grown. This time he became old enough to have his own doublet in the 1370 style, with lots of woollen buttons.  For adults, such a doublet is closely fitting the body, however for growing children more space is allowed. This is also true for the sleeves, which are not tightly fitting and .thus do not need to be buttoned at the wrist.

 My oldest son in his new costume in castle Loevestein.

Below the black doublet he wears red trousers with a codpiece (hidden by the doublet). Underneath the trousers are the first pair of shoes made for him. The shoes are based on a 14th century find in Dordrecht, the Netherlands and described in the book "Stepping through time" by Olaf Goubitz. The shoes, made by master historic shoemaker Gert Buurman of the Gelderse Roos, are toggle fastened with an additional drawstring at the bending point.

Standing on an X-chair showing the new shoes.

But not only children get new clothes... I still needed a cloak to keep warm in the evening and I thought it was necessary for our visit to castle Loevestein in March as well.  So I did have a cloak, but the weather proved to be very sunny and warm. My cloak is made in the style that appeared around 1350 and continued into the early 15th century, which means that it is buttoned (mine with eight woollen buttons) at the right shoulder. Unfortunately, there is no good description or find of such cloaks. It appears only on period miniatures or funeral brasses.  I made it 7/12th of a circle. This extra 1/12th circle was in fact unnecessary, half a circle is more than enough to cover the body and have enough room for your arms. The cloak consists of two layers of wool, making it warm and heavy.

An apothecary with a blue buttoned cloak from Tacuinum Sanitatis 
(fol. 87v, 15th century, BNF Nouvelle acquisition latine 1673, Paris, France).

My cloak together with a loose hood. ...

The difference in shade of the dark grey inside and black outside of the woollen cloak is easily seen. 
The row of buttons is on my right shoulder.

Sunday 25 March 2012

A box full of planes...

While this post is not exactly medieval I found it interesting enough to share. During my furniture making course, the teacher mentioned last week that he had some boxes with old wooden planes, which he would like to give a new home. As I am the 'medieval' man working with with old wooden planes he asked if I would like to have them. Of course I said yes, thinking that some of these planes could be used for re-enactment as well.

Two boxes full of wooden planes.

The boxes were full of planes: some hollows and rounds, a lot of moulding planes, some ploughs, a few German type block planes  (large and small with a horn). Some of these planes did bear marks of the maker on the head of the plane. As I did have a book on Dutch planemakers (Four centuries of Dutch plane makers by Gerrit van der Sterre) I looked if I could find them. The most common markings were those of the firm Nooitgedagt (JN under a crown) and Peter Duessing (PD under a crown) which were produced somewhere between the end of the 19th century and the start of the twentieth. Also a few planes did have HW under a crown. This is the mark of Heinrich Wolsing, a plane maker who was the son of a former employee of Peter Duessing. The production of his planes started in 1836 and they are less commonly found. Few other planes did have the mark SVE under a crown at the head of the plane and S. van Embden, Amsterdam at the side. This was a mark of a plane dealer, who resold planes made by others.

The PVD mark under a figure of an angel.

The last mark, PVD under an angel was found on one of a set of three similar planes equipped with a toat. This proved to be a spectacular find! The mark belonged to the Rotterdam plane maker Pieter van Duijl, who together with his brother Gijsbrechtus van Duijl, produced planes between 1755 and 1766. This plane was around  250 years old! The other two planes are very similar in appearance and construction, but do not bear a mark of the maker.

The view of the marked round plane from above. 

The side and sole view of the marked round plane.

The mark on the blade of the marked round plane.

The marked plane is a round, the others are a hollow and a round with a later added fence. I have no idea if the planes are still completely original or if they have been adapted for another role during time. For instance, hollows and rounds could be made later from a plane with a flat sole. And for the unmarked round plane, it looks like the fence was added more recently with some nails to the plane body. As regards to the plane blades, two have a hard to discern mark (a name?). Also the blades could have been replaced somewhere in time. 

  The set of three planes: round with fence (above), hollow (middle) and the marked round (below).

The wedges of the three planes. The right one has a different form and patina, perhaps a later replacement?

 The three blade of the planes: marked round (left), hollow (middle) and round with fence (right)..

 Side and sole of the fenced round plane.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Visit at Castle Loevestein

Last weekend, the Saint Thomasguild stayed at Castle Loevestein near Poederooijen in the Netherlands together with the Gelderse Roos. We received a very warm welcome by the caretaker of the castle, which made us feel very much at home. We brought all our medieval replica furniture with us to fill the great hall of the castle. Some pieces of furniture did cause some trouble - my very heavy toolchest for example - when  they had to be lifted up the stairs to the hall. 

 Castle Loevestein in the early morning sun.

Opening the door with the key of the castle. I am wearing my new buttoned cloak.

The Gelderse Roos  is ready to defend the castle against tourists that arrive too early... (i.e. before 13:00).

The ladies were busy doing some embroidery or sewing buttonholes for a 14th century dress. We found that sewing while sitting on a stone bench in the wall was much easier to do than in a comfortable chair, due to the better light.

Anne is sitting on the strycsitten next to a savoranola chair. A small triangular stool stands in front

 Heleen Buurman from the Gelderse Roos busy sewing a 14th century dress.

Katinka and her daughter on one of the stone benches.

The men were busy with other important things, such as making merry music and drinking ... 

The dressoir of Loevestein now properly filled with a display of tin plates and glass. 
On either side to Italian early renaissance - like chairs (after a 15th century model) can be seen.

My son discovered that some wine could be found at the dressoir.

 Bram plays some drinking songs on a wooden flute.

 So father so daughter ... In front of her a chest in an 17th century style that has recently been restored by Bram.

 The strycsittens meet merryly in the side chamber of the great hall. 
On the left the strycsitten of loevestein, on the right our strycsitten.

Just the right size! On the right the (open) tool chest of Bram is shown, while at the back an x-chair can be seen.

A small trestle table with a x-chair and a small bench. On the right a part of Marijns tool chest can be seen.

 In the side chamber our two Italian type chairs stand in front of the bed. 
Next to the bed a cradle, a rocking horse and a sedia tenaglia can be seen.

Sitting in front of the fire place on the strycsitten and the savoranola chair, having a rest after a long afternoon talking to visitors. The candles are lit as it has become late. In front, an x-chair an the turned triangular stool are seen.

Bedtime! The candles are blown out ..... which also is the end of this post