Monday, December 25, 2017

'Twas The Week Before Christmas....

Around Thanksgiving,  I had the idea to make Jay a short cloak to use as an offhand defense in rapier combat.  Master Gauge had given me the measurements on his ages ago but I could not remember them, so the idea went by the wayside. Until the Sunday before Christmas when I got the measurements again..

Master Gauge's short cloak was a simple thing:  two pieces of upholstery fabric machine sewn together, turned right side out and a collar added.  Easy peasy...  I can totally get this done before Christmas, heck, I can get this done in an afternoon.   What I hadn't taken into account was a flare up of my chronic Compulsive Elaboration Syndrome. <cue onimous music>

I didn't have any upholstery fabric, but I did have plenty of 7 oz linen.  Linen might even be better, I thought, since I'm sure it will need to be washed from time to time.  But 2 layers of linen still seemed a little flimsy...  elaboration #1: I added a linen canvas interlining.

Elaboration #2:  I don't like the look of a bag lined garment...  aaaaand I'd been wanting to play with a half bound technique that I learned in Master Jose's workshop this summer.  It was, of course, all hand sewing. But I loved the way it came out, so it was totally worth it.  It would, however, require that the lining go in by hand.
 inside (before lining) using Master Jose's technique

 Outside edge using Master Jose's technique

Elaboration #3:  This is so plain...  it really needs some trim -nothing fancy...  just some black bias trim.

When in doubt, add more trim!

Elaboration #4:   You know...  a second row of trim would make the cloak *really* pop...  and it's only Wednesday....

All in all, despite the time frame, it was a pretty restful, no-stress project.  I find handwork very zen and this was a 99% handwork project.  I finished by December 23 and had it wrapped and under the tree in plenty of time for the opening of presents.  Jay had not gotten even the slightest hint that what I was up in the sewing room working on was a gift for him.

Done, despite myself :)

It was a hit on Christmas morning.  He commented immediately that it had a nice heft for an off-hand defense and another rapier friend that saw it commented similarly.   While I think I would make it a couple inches longer if I made one again, all it all it came out well for a six day project.

 Christmas Morning (photobomb by Charlie)

Have the Happiest of Holidays, whichever you celebrate!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mistress Leda's Elevation

It's been an incredibly busy summer/autumn.  Since the last post  (six months ago!) I have taken 2 Modern Maker workshops, researched 16th century Ottoman hats and çaprast closures, written and taught classes on both topics, planned, cooked and served a Roman themed Royal Luncheon, made a mostly hand sewn 16th century Italian gown, researched collarless 16th century Italian partlets and planned, cooked and served a Vigil table for Mistress Leda's elevation this past weekend.  I may write about the other projects at a later date (or, knowing my penchant for procrastinating on blogging, I may not), but I want to write about Mistress Leda's elevation while it is fresh in my mind.

There were actually two parts:  a "Last Night as an Apprentice" party on Friday night and the actual Vigil Saturday morning/afternoon.

Friday night was a "Tavern Food" theme.  I made two recipes I'd used from the Royal Luncheon at Red Tower: The Strong Garlic Cheese and the Olive Relish, using redactions from The Classical Cookbook.

The Garlic Cheese recipe is from the poem Moretum, commonly attributed to Virgil. (Dalby 105) although I have taken liberties with the recipe. The first time (for the Royal Lunch taste-test) was as redacted and with the full amount of garlic suggested..  While tasty, there was so much garlic that it was spicy.   It also needs to be at room temperature to be malleable enough to eat.

I've made it twice since then and find that half the garlic is still garlicky enough for garlic lovers.  I also find that using white wine in far higher quantities than called for makes it easier to blend (even in my Vitamix) and easier to spread.  The recipe specifically says it should not be spreadable, but I'm cooking for people to eat and spreadable cheese is just better for people to eat off a buffet.

The olive relish (essentially tapenade) I made exactly to Dalby's redaction. It's a tasty, easy to prepare recipe that I can make in large quantities.  The one thing I learned from this recipe is that fresh rue is called ruda and available at foodie supermarkets, like Buford Farmer's Market.

There was plenty of (store-bought) cuban bread and some pretty amazing (if I say so myself) pudding shots with rumchata and bourbon cream to round out the table. If you try the pudding shots, Godiva makes an instant chocolate pudding, which I highly recommend.

Sadly, I did not get a single photo of the Friday night party.  But it was after dark, so I'm not sure how photos would have turned out anyway.

The actual Vigil on Saturday afternoon was an English "Cream Tea" theme.

Photo credit:  Mistress Sofya Gianetta di Trieste

The menu was brandied peach tartlets, shortbread, lemon curd, conserve of oranges, scones (plain and current), gingerbread, banana muffins and assorted nuts and dates.

I've collected enough "hospitality table" dishes since Mistress Alessandra's elevation  that the only thing I  added were some cute little chalkboard signs that I used to label everything.  I also had a master ingredients list in case of food allergies.

The food was a mix of documented and modern recipes.  I can't find reference to lemon curd any earlier than 1800 but Leda loves it, so it made the menu. I didn't specifically document my shortbread recipe -I've had it for years and at this point I have no idea it's origin.  But I've heard people say shortbread goes back as far as the 12th century, so it's not impossible that my recipe was HA.   With limited time and a table to fill, I blush to admit that I did not research as fully as I might have. The scones, gingerbread and banana muffins were all modern recipes.

The brandied peach tartlets used a redaction of  Scappi's Feast Day Cheese Tart crust.  That crust has become my "go-to" recipe pretty much anytime I need a crust for something.  The filling was peaches drained off when I bottled 2016's batch of peach brandy this past summer.

The conserve of orange was a redaction from Medieval Cookery.  It was a lot of work, but the house smelled amazing while it was cooking and it was pretty darned tasty when it was done.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.

The one big lesson from this table is not to plan such a heavily baked good table next time.  I was baking for the better part of three days and towards the end the oven started throwing sensor error messages...  probably because I had been working it so hard.

The other big project for Leda's Vigil was a new gown.  She had asked that I process with her, but when I do Italian at all these days, I usually do working class.  So I would definitely need a new gown suitable for court.

I  have to admit the gown project daunted me.  I had lost my mojo after the Modern Maker workshops this summer and with everything I had committed to for War of the Wings, this gown didn't get started at all until a week or so after I got back from War of the Wings.  But the Sewing Gods smiled upon me and I got a 90% hand sewn gown completed in just under 3 weeks  -mostly because I did not have to devote time sewing trim on.

While I love the mid 16th century, my personal aesthetic tends more towards the austere lines of Sofonisba Anguissola, so I settled on a painting by Antonio Giovanni Fasolo for my inspiration.

Portrait of a Family
Antonio Giovanni Fasolo
Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco

We were in San Francisco in August and I dragged Jay to the Legion of Honor Museum in hopes of getting greater detail on the cuff embroidery and partlet, but the painting was not on view.  It apparently hadn't been on view in a very long while because one of the curators was sure the Museum didn't own it until he looked it up in their database.

I had picked up some cerise silk blend upholstery fabric at a Robert Allen Outlet sale this spring and had stalled on trying to document the pattern, but it would be close enough to HA for the gown.

I drafted the original pattern for the bodice in August using the Bara system and my notes from the Modern Maker workshop. The pad stitching (which I normally hate) went pretty quickly -possibly because I was under the gun at this point, possibly due to kitty support.

 Sam quality checking my pad stitching

Lafayette helping out

Someone on one of the many costuming boards I am on posted a trick for pattern matching that worked like a dream.  Use a non-opaque material for the bodice front pattern piece so you can see the fabric through the pattern piece and move it as needed until it's in the best spot for the motif in the fabric.
Nicely centered pattern on the bodice. Go me!

Marking and hand sewing the pleats was kind of tedious but the boys were on the job, making sure I didn't slack off.

 Laf supervising my work.

The Cat Union limits the number of hours a day a kitten can work, 
so Sam took over for the evening shift.

All the tiny pleats!

The fact that the fabric was intended for upholstery, gave the skirt a lovely voluminousness.  I had a blackand drawn work partlet that I'd made last year but never worn, since it was too nice for a working class impression.  But it would be perfect with this gown -and had the added bonus of being already complete.

While the dress was hanging before I hemmed it, I got it in my head that I absolutely had to have a pair of cuffs, so I knocked out a very unsatisfactory pair of cuffs and played with liquid starch for the first time.

There is a reason they call  it Corn STARCH. :)

I had intended to do a stiffened hem. but time ran out and I was lucky to get the hem marked and pressed up before we left for site.  Lady Ellison Summerfield, bless her, offered to hem the dress while I was attending to the Vigil table and she hemmed all 6+ yards of skirt on Saturday afternoon.  And with as stiff as the fabric is,  I don't think I miss the stiffened hem a bit.

The Elevation itself was lovely, if a bit nerve wracking.  Mid afternoon, Baroness Sibella, who was supposed to speak for the Populace said that she was too tired to keep her thoughts together and asked if I would speak instead.  After the initial terror at the thought wore off I managed to get my thoughts together and managed to say something mostly articulate when the time came.

Leda's Procession

photo credit: Mistress Jocosa d'Auxerre

Me in The Dress, with Leda's Laurel, Master Jose and Mistress Katrai

photo credit: Lady Rhonwyn

Now that the elevation is done I kind of feel like a kid on the first day of Summer Vacation  -wow...  what do I  want to do now?!?   Step one:  Clean the sewing room!

Charlie the cat says:
 /c vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

Dalby, Andrew and Sally Gringer. The Classical Cookbook, Revised Edition.  Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2012.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Great Gnocchi Experiment #100daysofAS Day 13

Last month's Baronial A&S night was on how to make gnocchi.  However, neither Emmelina nor I could be there.  She'd only ever had gnocchi from Trader Joes and I'd recently had some amazing gnocchi at a restaurant so one Sunday in May, I invited her over to try making gnocchi ourselves.

I wanted to do a potato based version, to show Emmelina how much tastier fresh gnocchi was.  But since potatoes are a new world food, I got to wondering about period gnocchi recipes.  What did they use to make gnocchi before potatoes?

Thanks to the nice folks on the SCA cooks board, I was introduced to multiple pre-1600 gnocchi recipes.  They seemed to fall into 2 main types:  bread crumbs, flour & egg or cheese, flour & egg.   I was kind of curious about the difference in taste so the plan was to make one of the cheese based recipes, one of the breadcrumb based (from a 15th C Italian cookbook) and then a batch of the potato based, from Mark Bittman's: How to Cook Everything.   This was primarily a taste comparison, so things were a bit fast and loose historical research wise; I didn't redact the recipes myself and had to make some substitutions on ingredients.  At some point, I may redo the experiment for higher accuracy..  depending on the cost and availability of real Neufchâtel cheese (or try my hand at making it myself).

 Ready to start making gnocchi!

 Emmelina mixing the cheese gnocchi

From right to left:  Scappi's breadcrumb version, cheese gnocchi and potato based.

Cheese gnocchi (original recipe & redaction on the link)
Interestingly, the Aethelmarc redaction specifies Neufchâtel cheese. Doing a little research, I  found out that while the production of Neufchâtel dates back to approximately the 6th century what we call Neufchatel today is not really comparable. There was no real Neufchâtel cheese to be had at the gourmet Kroger with the extensive cheese department (which is the first place I tried) so I didn't try anywhere else.

Preparation wise, these went together pretty easily because I  remembered to pull the cream cheese out in advance and let it get closer to room temperature.  We did have to add significant additional flour to get the "soft bread dough" stage.  The quantity of flour was specified in the redaction, not the original recipe, I was pretty comfortable with adding the flour.

Breadcrumb Gnocchi  Recipe 69 from Libro B of Anonimo Meridionale: Due Libri di Cucina at the link.  Anonimo Meridionale is a 15th-century Italian book of recipes and there is a nearly identical recipe in Scappi's L'Opera.    The grocery bakery didn't sell fresh breadcrumbs (the woman at the bakery counter looked at me like I was from Mars when I asked) and I'd waited until the day before the experiment so I didn't have time to bake bread and make my own, so Panko breadcrumbs were substituted, mostly because I already had them in the pantry.  Ironically, it was in writing this that I thought about the option of making them from store bought bread.

 Like the cheese gnocchi, we had to add more flour than anticipated.  I didn't have high hopes for this recipe as we were putting it together. It was coarse and lumpier than the cheese gnocchi and felt like "peasant food"

Potato Gnocchi
I'd made Mark Bittman's recipe (at the link and in his How to Cook Everything) years ago, so I decided to use that recipe again.  Because you have to boil the potatoes (and peel them) and then roll each one over a fork for the classic ridged appearance, this one takes a lot longer to come together than the other two.  Like the other two, we had to add more flour to get a dough consistency that was workable. Emmelia was a pro in adding the ridges from the first gnocchi.  The other 2 recipes did not call for the ridges, which makes me wonder when the ridging started.  Like other 2 types of gnocchi, we piled them up on a plate in layers to await cooking.

We had a bit of a disaster cooking the potato gnocchi.  When we went to pop the top layer in the boiling water, we realized that they were sticking to each other and the ones underneath them.  In hindsight, I would add a little more flour and place them individually on a cookie sheet lined with parchment once they came off the fork.  The only thing to do was to just pull off chunks & toss them into the boiling water -all of Emmelina's beautiful ridges disappeared.  We dubbed them "post modern gnocchi" and ate them anyway.

The Taste Test

We put butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese on all three types.  Scappi suggests a little cinnamon in addition to the butter and cheese for the breadcrumb so we added that for the breadcrumb gnocchi.

Not sure if it was the additional cinnamon or what, but the unanimous agreement what that we liked the breadcrumb recipe the best. (Jay got home just in time to taste test so there were 3 of us voting) Both the cheese and the potato were both very good though.

And so concluded the Great Gnocchi Experiment.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Two Hour Tarpus

I have a lovely buckram frame tarpus  that I  patterned off of a 1880s flowerpot hat I'd made several years ago.

It was fun to make, if a bit time consuming but has never sat on my head securely.  When Her Majesty commented on the hat's misbehavior in court,  I decided it was time to breakdown and make the replacement I'd been meaning to.

Village Hat Shop has fezes in a variety of colors for around $20 and I had several kicking around the sewing room. I thought that the navy one would make a good base to decorate. Note:  I have a large head even for a man (24" circumference) and Village Hat Shop XXL fezes fit me.

I started hand hemming a silk veil then came to my senses and checked Dharma Trading Company.  I could get a 44" x 44" silk chiffon scarf with hand rolled hem for $12.   $12 seemed a small price to pay for not having to roll hem silk.

And I had some lovely vintage sari trim that I'd found on ebay to use as the veil band. The hardest part of this whole project was finding really appropriate sari trim.  Luckily, I love to comb through e-bay!

Step 1:  Fold the veil in half, tack it to the hat in several places on the crown.

Step 2:  Cut the sari trim to just a little longer than the circumference of the hat

Step 3:  Fold the ends of the trim into points & stitch down.  Stitch a 12"-16" piece of lucet cord, fingerloop braid or kumihimo cord to the center of each point on the wrong side so that the end result looks similar to this:

Step 4: Center the trim on the hat and stitch down the bottom edge in the front between the veil.

Step 5: Tie cords together loosely in back

Step 6:  Voila, the hat is complete!

On other fronts, I am camp mistressing the Baronial encampment for Fool's War, working on a How-to class for Sekanjabin syrup, finishing a fencing doublet for Pietro (who recently became Baronial Rapier Champion!) doing research on Islamic embroidery, jewelry & plaque belts, working up a pattern for an Italianized entari, ala Titian's 1555 Portrait of a Lady and trying to convince myself that I don't need a set of Korean garb.  In other words, it's pretty much business as usual around here.

c. 1555
Portrait of a Lady
National Gallery of Art
Washington, DC

Sunday, January 29, 2017

2016 Projects in retrospect

2017 is off to a productive start.  I finally got around to remaking my turquoise entari (I ripped apart the first one this summer in a fit of pique (I'd never liked how it turned out) and then regretted its absence) to continue the process of fine tuning the pattern adjustments I made this autumn and in that vein, am making a new Viking gown to fine tune that pattern as well.  Not entirely sure either project is interesting enough to warrant a blog post, but between that and event stewardy things for Midwinter, that's been my month.

At the request of Mistress Jadi, I pulled together a list of what I accomplished in 2016.  I'd intended it to be a page for just her & Mistress Alessandra.  After I started, I thought it would be a good blog post (since I haven't posted for a while) but I couldn't change it from a page to a post and it took enough time to pull together that I am not going to re-type and format it.   Here is the link to the page itself if you are interested. (or click on 2016 on the nav bar above)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Eve experiment: Libum or Roman cheesecake... sort of

So I was going to a New Year's Eve party with a bunch of SCA folks and looked through my SCA cooking board to find a new recipe to try. I had pinned a recipe for "Roman cheesecake" but the recipe I'd pinned was just the beginning of a research trail to determine if it actually had any historical accuracy behind it.

A little google fu got me to the history of cheesecake and that site mentioned that Marcus Cato is credited for recorded the first Roman cheesecake recipe. More google fu turned up another recipe cited as being from Cato's De Agri Cultura that was very similar to the first one I'd seen.  And this one had a translation of the original Latin as well as a modern version. I wouldn't use any of these sites for actual scholarship but for a New Year's Eve party it seemed sufficient.  If the recipe was tasty I could always look for the original De Agri Cultura later.

Deciding on the recipe cited as Cato's, I decided to quadruple the recipe since a yield of 4 didn't seem like very many for a party.  If this were a more serious culinary experiment, I would have done the recipe as written first and tried to use solely historically accurate tools.

I used Kroger's Simply Truth organic ricotta and there wasn't much liquid to start so draining it on coffee filters didn't remove any significant liquid.    I used a hand mixer to beat the ricotta...  I have been struggling with tendinitis in my  right wrist and "beating until light and airy" by hand didn't seem tendinitis friendly.

The translation of the original Latin called for "1 pound of wheat flour, or if you wish the cake to be more dainty, 1/2 lb of fine flour."  The redaction proportions were 1 pound = 1 cup.

The modern redaction did not specify the type of flour, but the proportions made it clear that it should be wheat flour.  I was using unbleached white flour so I halved the amount and folded it in 1/2 cup at a time with the mixer.  The dough was still too sticky to make into buns, so I added 2 more 1/2 cups and still had sticky-ish dough.

 Sticky dough is sticky

Going back to the original recipe I had pinned, it included kneading on a floured surface and that did the trick.

This looks much better

Looking at the amount of dough I had, I realized that the yield of 4 was for a cake that would need to have slices cut to eat.  Knowing how much better finger food went over at Mistress Alessandra's Vigil table, I decided to make a dozen or so cakes rather than the 4 the recipe called for. Making the smaller cakes yielded ~12 so with a quadruple recipe, I had 48 and enough left to make a cake the original size.

The first half of the cakes, ready to bake

Thankfully, I love bay leaves and had plenty of dried ones because putting a leaf under each cake meant that I used nearly 50 over all.

I used nearly all of this bag of bay leaves

I'd be curious to see if fresh made any significant difference.  I used olive oil spray on the pans but ran out after the first two and had to use coconut oil spray on the other two,  All things considered, I think the purpose of the bay leaves were to keep the the cakes from sticking and, at least with the smaller cake size, made the oil a little superfluous anyway.

I did not have anything close to the testu (brick or clay pot) that cooking the Roman way called for, so I baked them without.  In retrospect, I suspect that the testu (I'm imagining something similar to half of a clay roaster for lack of any research yet) would have kept the cakes a little softer and slower to brown.  30 minutes at 425 degrees resulted in cakes a little browner than I would have preferred but the bay leaves kept the bottom of each cake from burning.  The original sized cake turned out just about perfect.

This one is Just Right.

I had raw honey and warmed the first part of it up in a pot and warmed the rest up in a microwave. I didn't notice any significant difference in the result either way.  I did use significantly more honey than what was called for because, well,... it's honey.

Cakes that have marinated in honey for an hour, ready to take to the party.

The end result wasn't bad for a first attempt. These weren't very much like modern cheese cake, but everyone thought they were tasty so I would call the recipe a win and worth hunting down a copy of De Agri Cultura and making a more historically accurate attempt.  At some point.  So many projects. So little free time.

And on that note, I'm going to try to do a 2016 projects post to figure out just exactly what I did this past year and hopefully fill in the gap of the past few months of silence.  I also have over 1000 museum pics from our trip to London I want to get organized and share in case they are useful for anyone else's research.  But I've got several time critical projects to work on and I am event steward for Midwinter Arts & Sciences in February so (as usual) I need 48 hour days to manage even most of what is on my plate, so we shall see what actually gets done. :)