Method

Beat 5 eggs in one direction** for at least half an hour. Add glasses fine sugar, the zest from 1 lemon, a little ground cinnamon and cloves, and enough flour so that after kneading, the dough can be rolled out to the thickness of your little finger. Cut into squares and bake in the summer oven.

*The Egyptian reference is mysterious, since the recipe does not differ markedly from others in this chapter. Recipes often got their names from current events or from some visiting dignitary. In this case it may have been a familial or personal association.

**Beating in one direction was a common practice when making cakes in eighteenth-century England and America. In Hannah Glasse’s recipe for A Rich Seed Cake, called the Nuns Cake, she noted that “you must observe always in beating of Butter to do it with a cool Hand, and beat it always one Way in a deep Earthen Dish.” E. Smith’s The Compleat Housewife was popular in colonial America; when making a white cake, Smith advised the reader to “make a hole in the midst of the flour, and pour all the wetting in, stirring it round with your hand all one way till well mix’d.” By the late nineteenth century, beating in one direction had gone out of style in America if we can believe Mrs. Lincoln, who was principal of the Boston Cooking School before Fanny Farmer. She rhetorically asked her readers, “Shall we stir only one way?” and then answered, “No; stir any way you please, so long as you blend or mix the materials.” For today’s kitchen scientists, the pendulum has swung back in favor of unidirectional beating. According to Howard Hillman, “some mixtures can be blended more quickly and easily and more uniformly if the cook stirs only in one direction but he adds that “it doesn’t make a hoot of difference whether you stir clockwise or counterclockwise (unless you believe in that old superstition that stirring counterclockwise brings bad luck).“ (Glasse, The Art of Cookery, 139; Smith, The Compleat Housewife, 180; Lincoln, Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book, 34; and Hillman, Kitchen Science, 245.)

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