Tag Archives: history

New article on Modernizing Markham

After my interview in the Indiana Food Review, I decided I would write a short article talking a bit about what I learned while doing this project. It was just published, and you can find it here. While the blog has been at a standstill, things have been happening with my Markham work, so keep your eyes peeled for an update/announcement that will be coming soon!

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Wafers

Wafers are a very thin cookie, originally developed for the end of wealthy feasts to aid digestion (a good historical post about wafers can be found here). I didn’t find a modern equivalent of the recipe, although there are similar wafer cookies that stem from Eastern European and Nordic traditions. Another stumbling block for wafer making by the modern cook is the fact that wafer irons are somewhat hard to come by. This one is the most reasonably priced Nordic iron I’ve found, and it also is a stovetop model, which will make it easier to use (another bonus: purchasing it from that site helps to support the Danish Windmill museum in Elk Horn, Iowa). It’s technically a Nordic Krumkake pan, but is the most affordable ($50) solution: antique wafer irons that are truer to those used by women in Markham’s time will run in the hundreds (and possibly more). These were similar to modern krumkake irons, but had a long wooden and metal handle for holding them near the fire to cook.

Markham’s recipe for wafers (on pg 117 of Best):
“To make the best wafers, take the finest wheat flour you can get, and mix it with cream, the yolks of eggs, rose-water, sugar, and cinnamon til it be a little thicker than pancake batter; and then, warming your wafer irons on a charcoal fire, anoint them first with sweet butter, and then lay your batter and press it, and bake it white or brown at your pleasure.”

I was surprised at how easy they are to make–I’m bringing the fruits of my labors to my calligraphy class tomorrow so I can get some more opinions on them! The recipe below makes ~15 cookies. Make sure to preheat your iron on medium-low heat for a few minutes before adding any batter!

1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup rosewater (available in Middle Eastern markets or Asian food stores if not at the supermarket)
1 cup cream

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth.
2. Grease your iron with a little butter, and add one rounded tablespoon of batter to the center.
3. Close the iron and hold closed tightly for about 30 seconds to press the pattern on the iron into the cake.
4. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes or until golden brown, turning the iron over once to ensure both sides are cooked.

That’s it! I let them cool on a plate or rack before transferring the cooled wafers to another plate (this keeps them from getting soggy).

White and brown wafers (brown ones are just cooked a little longer).

krumkake iron

Wafers

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Getting the Ball Rolling

So this project has been evolving for a while, but now it’s finally starting to pick up steam to a point where I can start posting more often! Since I’ve originally crafted this idea, it’s grown quite a bit. I am still going to be testing recipes from Gervase Markham’s book, The English Housewife (first published in 1615), and I will still be sharing what I learn with you on this blog.

I’m also very excited about the tangible portion of the project, which has evolved into a fun little side project in and of itself. As you might remember from the ‘about’ section, I’m going to be calligraphing and binding a small pamphlet-style book that will include the recipes I write about on here. After talking with my Center for the Book committee, we’ve expanded this even further! Now, it’s going to include the recipes and illustrations (think an old-timey Mollie Katzen cookbook), along with a print-on-demand version including information from the blog and extracts from the original Markham text. I am also looking into making an e-book version, and I hope to make that accessible across as many platforms as possible (I just published my research blog on the Kindle store, and I’m hoping to do that with this blog too!)

I would love to hear feedback from blog readers on this: what could I do to make this type of project more interesting from the reader’s perspective? Are there other new (or old) media you think this type of project would be a good fit for? How do you think using digital media assists in our understanding of these older texts?

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