Gooseberry Fool

Summer is the perfect time for fool. This cool, creamy dish is better known in Great Britain than the United States but used to be common here as well. Fool refers to cooked fruit mixed with custard or whipped cream. The term was once thought to be derived from the French fouler, meaning to crush (as in berries), but the Oxford English Dictionary dismisses this idea since the earliest fools didn’t contain fruit. The dessert may have been considered simply foolish and insubstantial, somewhat like trifle, its culinary relative.  Continue reading

Eliza Leslie’s Bread and Butter Pudding

Eliza Leslie's bread and butter pudding

I’ve been craving comfort food lately, what with all the bad news these days, so I delved into Miss Leslie’s Directions for Cookery (1837) in search of a nice old pudding. As I’ve written before, Eliza Leslie was such an elegant writer, her cookbooks are worth reading for her fine prose as well as her recipes.

I was drawn to “A Bread and Butter Pudding,” a simple dish that calls for layers of buttered slices of bread topped with currants and brown sugar, with an egg and milk sauce poured on top. This pudding is British in origin, with published recipes dating to the early 18th century. It seems most closely related to an older pudding from Devon, England, called “white-pot,” which contained dates as well as raisins.

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Eliza Leslie’s Indian Pound Cake

Indian pound cake

I wanted to make Eliza Leslie’s Indian pound cake partly because it sounded so good — the ingredients include cornmeal, eggs, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brandy — but also because its creator seemed so interesting.

Born in 1787, Leslie was one of five children of a Philadelphia watchmaker. Her father, who was friends with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, died heavily in debt when she was sixteen, and she and her mother ran a boardinghouse to support their family. According to culinary archivist Jan Longone, Leslie set out to become a writer of novels and stories but wrote a cookbook, Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats (1828), because her friends kept asking her for recipes. (She had been a pupil at Mrs. Goodfellow’s cooking school in Philadelphia.)  Continue reading

Cherry Bounce

cherry bounceWe visited Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Virginia estate, with some friends a few weeks ago, and had a good time touring the house and gardens. I then made a beeline for the exhibition “Hoecakes and Hospitality: Cooking with Martha Washington,” which is on display at Mount Vernon’s Reynolds Museum through August 11th.

This exhibition explores the work that went on behind the scenes to feed the Washingtons and their many visitors. Some of the original pots and pans and tableware are on display, as are a number of Martha’s cookbooks and recipes. There are recipes for hoecakes (George’s favorite breakfast), sturgeon, a “ragoo” of asparagus, and Martha’s “Great Cake.” But the one that appealed to me most was for a drink called cherry bounce. Continue reading