How does one combine a love for literature and a love for cooking? In my last post, I shared part one of my attempt to cook an authentic 18th-century French meal for my family. I had to fiddle with the entree and bread recipes to “translate” the instructions into modern English, even though an editor had already translated the recipe from the French. I have one more recipe to share from that night, the epitome of French cooking: dessert.
Here is the original recipe, with my notes.
Recipe #3: Fried Cream
Take about a pint of milk, boil it on the fire, and mix in four egg yolks with a little flour. Once it is well mixed, stir it all together on the stove until the cream is formed: put in a little salt, a little butter and some chopped lemon peel. Once it is cooked, flour your table and pour your Cream, so that it spreads out by itself: once it has cooled, it should look like a cooked omelette. Cut it into pieces, depending on the size you want, and fry them in good hot lard, being careful not to ruin them in the pan. Once it is browned, take it off; put powdered sugar and orange flower water on it. Lay it out in its dish, and having glazed it, if you wish, with a heated oven peel, serve it hot. You can also, when this sort of cream is spread out on the table, have hot butter in your frying pan, and fry it like an omelette. When it is browned on one side, pour it into its dish, and move it gently around in the pan, to brown it on all sides. Sugar it, glaze it and serve it hot once again, all as an Entremets.
Of the three recipes, I was most worried about this one. First of all, I am deathly allergic to milk, so using regular cow’s milk would keep me from trying my own dessert. I wanted in on the fun, so I used coconut milk instead. But I had no idea if the coconut milk would work—after all, in 18th-century France, they would be using whole milk fresh from the cow.
I also ran into the same problem as the bread recipe: no instructions for how much to use for each ingredient. How much is “a little” flour? I ended up using a cup and a half of it, and three cups of milk, which was more than the pint it called for.
The instructions sound bizarre: stir milk, eggs, and flour together to make cream? But it worked, even with the coconut milk. One minute I had a lumpy mixture of solids and liquid, and suddenly it congealed into a cream-like mixture. It was still a little lumpy, but considering the fact that I had used coconut milk, I took what I could get.
Because I was worried the dessert would be a flop, I tried the cream part the night before everyone came over, and when it worked, I stored it in the refrigerator until I needed it. I was encouraged by the fact that it was supposed to look like an omelet—lumpy and yellow.
When I went to cut it into individual pieces for frying, the wax paper started to fall apart. I ended up dumping the whole slab out of the wax paper and then cutting it, which worked much better.
“Fry them in good hot lard.” This took a lot of work. Somehow they didn’t fry as quickly as I thought they would—or should. I ended up getting one piece about every ten minutes, and when six people like your food and are clambering for seconds—and then thirds—this makes for a long time in front of the stove.
But it was worth it—everyone loved it! For the glaze on top, I used orange juice instead of orange water (whatever that is), and the result was a delicious, very high calorie treat.