Saturday, November 26, 2011

Charles Dickens Christmas Recipes

I have always been a fan of "A Christmas Carol".

To be honest, I don't care if it's the George C. Scott version, or Bill Murray's.

I just love the message.

I guess it's like this.......I have been married for what.... 126 years? But every time I go to a wedding and I hear the couple exchange vows, that's good for me. It reminds me what I promised Sue McGleno and God such a long time ago.

I need reminders.

In "A Christmas Carl" (and to this day I still wonder how or why they selected that title) the premise is that any day can be a special day for us. All we have to do is show a little resolve.

Each of us has room for improvement, and if we just take a moment to look to the past, dwell in the present, and ponder the can we not want to make radical changes.

I swear to Caesar if you tell anybody this, I'll deny it (and crush your skull) but every time that sick little Tiny Tim says the deal about Merry Christmas to all and whatever-whatever.........

I kinda tear up.

I need reminders.

Keeping in theme with Dickens, I wanted to blurt out some thought on Victorian baking.

Klecko is far from a historian, but this topic and era have always fascinated him.

In less than 2 weeks my Saint Paul Bread Club will be having an event entitled......

"A Charles Dickens Baking Party"

One of the main reasons I chose to do this was that I thought it would be fun for the club members to do some research and then try to replicate some of these recipes that have been lost to time.

People-People-People......we just don't know how good we have it these days.

I've sat in on numerous seminars where you had to bake items that were standard fare during WW2, what an imposition that was (from an ingredient stand point).

But London Town - Dickensville was 600 years prior to "The Big One".......

What a challenge this will be.

I know we are a baking Blog here, but check out this recipe in case you have to stuff your goose.......

Chestnut Stuffing:

1/2 pound bacon (after frying)cut into fine pieces
1 large white onion diced
2 cups sliced celery
½ cup fresh chopped parsley
1 pound of chestnuts (broken)
4 cups cooked wild rice
1 teaspoon dry sage
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1 teaspoon pepper

OK, it will work for turkey or ducks as well. But this is a derivative of something I pulled off a website a couple years back, the version online also had apples....but that kinda freaked me out.

Then there is always...........

Goose Liver Toast:

½ cup chopped goose fat
1 goose liver
1 truffle, minced
salt and pepper
10 to 12 Christmas "Trees"
shape cut from thinly
sliced, toasted white bread
Finely chopped Italian
parsley sprigs

I pulled this recipe out of a Victorian cookbook, they served these bread pieces on the same platter that the goose rested on. They were to be ornamental and functional...either way, it made me glad that I was living in the 2000's.

Currant Cream Scones:

The Brass Sisters have an interesting web site that breaks down the entire Victorian menu, you should Google them if you get the chance. They mention that the following recipe was only enjoyed by the upper middle class and wealthy folks in the Dickens era.

They also said that even if you had the money to purchase the supplies.....scones were hard to make.

Back in the day, all the peeps from London Town had to buy big masses of sugar that came wrapped in blue paper. I think they were cone shaped.

Well, you'd start off by chiseling off an appropriate size chunk, and then you'd have to pulverize that unit until you got your recipes sugar at the precise consistency.

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup butter
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants, plumped in ¼ cup orange juice*
¼ cup sugar

This recipe looks good, but if we are going to be authentic, Klecko will have to cry "Fraud!"

First off, B-Powder wasn't employed by 14th century England or anyplace else in the world for that matter. If anything, they probably used some sort of ash/content that had properties more similar To B-Soda

Secondly, the Brits never-ever-ever plumped, and even if they did...they shouldn't of. The acid in the orange juice would certainly break down the currant by the time the scone was finished being mixed.

Are there oranges in the U.K?

It's so far from Florida...LOL.

Anyways forget plumping anytime you use raisins or currants

You'll lose all your texture.

And of course I would be remiss if I didn't try Tiny Tim's favorite treat.....

Figgy Pudding:

1 cup suet
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons rum
1 apple peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 pound dried figs, ground or finely chopped
Grated peel of 1 lemon and 1 orange
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 large egg whites, stiffly beaten

Grease a two-quart mold.
Cream together butter and shortening. Gradually add sugar, egg yolks, milk, extract, apple, figs, lemon and orange peel. Add next 6 ingredients, mixing well. Fold stiffly beaten egg whites into mixture.
Pour into two-quart buttered bowl or mold and place into large shallow pan and steam for four hours.

Custard Sauce

2 cups milk
1 large egg
3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter
In saucepan, scald milk and allow to cool.

Mix together remaining ingredients, except for butter. Add to cooled milk. Cook over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, mixing well.
Serve pudding warm with custard sauce or sweetened whipped cream.

This recipe was pulled off another Dickens internet site as well.

When I look at these recipes from centuries past, I am amazed at how different things were.

I guess my first inclination is to be grateful for the convenience that I have in my kitchen today, but on the other don't see any processed ingredients in here huh?

For those of you in the Twin Cities, our Dicken's Baking Party will take place the second Saturday in December. If you are interested in coming.....shout at me for details.


  1. Oh, yeah, and don't forget creaming and stiffly beating was all done by hand. . .with either a wooden spoon or a big fork. Don't mess with the baker 'cause they'll take you out! I thank God every day for electricity!!

    1. thanks Anonymous, point well taken.

  2. There is no butter measurement in the figgy pudding recipe! How much?