The Georgian Chocolate Party

Some months ago a few friends discussed how nice it would be to assemble one afternoon to visit over cups of drinking chocolate and a few sweets.  However, when you have three ladies who love to sew, cook and dance, nothing remains simple for long. Before you know it, our little Georgian chocolate party turned into a formal costumed dinner party with dancing.

One of our number happens to have decorated her home in the Georgian style which provided the perfect backdrop for the evening. Before dinner we assembled in the parlour. We admired each other’s gowns, and made note of how dapper all of the gentlemen looked, and engaged in otherwise pleasant conversation over glasses of spiced Negus and cider.

Given that many of the guests are extremely talented seamstresses, the clothing was a feast for the eyes, and that combined with the beautiful period appropriate setting, you could almost imagine that we had actually travelled back in time as we raised our glasses and toasted the King before being called in for dinner.

lounge

The parlour

The dining room was as beautiful as the parlour, and very much reminded me of a picture of the dining hall located in Castle Howard in Yorkshire.

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Dining Room

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Castle Howard, Yorkshire

There were two servants on hand to ensure that all ran smoothly, and due to space constraints and to ensure that everything could be served at an optimum temperature, it was decided that we would pop slightly into the 19th century to dine service à la russe.  Some weeks before the dinner, I researched period recipes to consider serving at the dinner. The recipes were split up between those of us who love to cook, and when we arrived at the party our prepared dishes were immediately taken into the kitchen for the servants to manage.  Once we were all seated the wine was poured and spectacular dinner commenced.

 

We started with a course of roasted cheese, beets, and olives. Roasted cheese was one of Jane Austen’s favorite dishes, and this Good Time Regency Girl could have eaten this one dish and have been content. That is until the other dishes started arriving.

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Roasted Cheese

The main meal consisted of roasted chicken, ham, roots a’la crème, green beans ragooed with potatoes, and an almond and rose water flummery.

Following the main course, the dessert course was laid out and consisted of syllabubs, mince tarts, blown almonds, shortbread, and a Georgian chocolate tart.

After dessert, the ladies lingered in the dining room while the gentlemen headed back into the parlour to rearrange the furniture to make room for us to dance. I brought along a laptop loaded with English country dance music, and called a variety of dances that worked well in a confined space. We have already discussed how lovely it would be to bring in a musician the next time we host one of these dinner parties, but the recorded music did suit our purpose for the evening. During a break in the dancing the men happened across a selection of reproduction swords and some silliness broke out shortly after.

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swordplay

 

The evening concluded with us all sitting in the parlour, agreeing that while this was the first such party it will most certainly not be the last.

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The Ladies

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Griddle Scones

Today I demonstrated hearth cooking at a local museum for a group of senior citizens. I talked to them about the log cabin I was cooking in, and the types of cooking that happens at the museum. Samples of scones were handed out, and I was honored to hear some of the stories the guests shared about their memories of food and cooking elicited by the smell and taste of the scones. We also had guests from different cultures who said that people still do a fair share of cooking over open fires in their countries of origin. We talked about the similarities between scones, bannock, roti, and naan and commented on how universal breads are to people across the ages.

Shaping the dough.

Shaping the dough.

Scone on the griddle.

Scone on the griddle.

Griddle scone ready to sample.

Griddle scone ready to sample.

Wigged Out

Today I made a 18th century recipe using barm. Barm is the foam, or scum, formed on the top of fermented alcoholic beverages and used to be the prime source of yeast for baking back in the 18th century. I found an interesting video on YouTube by Jas Townsend who described how to make barm for use in Wigg Cakes, which is what I decided to use my barm in. Wigg is a Dutch world that means wedge, which is the shape that the cakes are cut into.

The barm was easy to make, all it took was some flour, water, yeast, and beer. I selected Mill Street Tank House Ale, a rich, dark malty ale that I hope will lend a slightly sweet flavor to the barm. It only had to brew for 20 minutes and it was ready to use.

Barm

Barm

I mixed up the dough, shaped it, cut it into wedges and set it to rise for 30 minutes.

Set to rise

Set to rise

I wish I had of been able to have baked these in a wood stove or Dutch oven, but I am recovering from surgery and still a little to wobbly on my feet to be working around hearths and wood stoves. So they were baked at home in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Wigg Cakes

Wigg Cakes

Normally I am not a fan of caraway seeds, however these are delicious. Mildly sweet and perfect with a cup of black tea.

A New Toy

The museum I cook at got a new toy – a reflector oven. By some stroke of luck I got to be the first person to cook something using it. I have been wanting to use one of these replica ovens for years, and was thrilled to finally get the opportunity to have a go. I roasted a chicken. The bird was about 4 lbs and took 2 hours to roast, turning it every 15 minutes. I basted it in butter and a simple herb mixture containing salt, pepper and sage. There is nothing like fire roasted meat, just delicious.

New reflector oven

New reflector oven

About 40-minutes into the cook.

About 40-minutes into the cook.

Cooked to perfection and ready to come off the spit.

Cooked to perfection and ready to come off the spit.