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Birthday Dessert – an 1896 Recipe for Demi-glacé

June 30, 2011

Last Saturday, the 18th, was my birthday. Being as such we decided to try a new recipe from Fannie Farmer’s cookbook. It’s about time I shared another recipe on the blog, so here is the dessert from my special day.

It is a little time-consuming (it was a two-day project for me), but not too difficult. I’ve broken down the recipes for you, and even included some pictures to help. This recipe made 3 small cakes, but the yield is solely dependent on how much of each ingredient you use. Give it a try!

Demi-glacé aux Fraises

Line a brick mould with Vanilla Ice Cream, put in layer of Lady Fingers, and fill the centre with preserved strawberries or large fresh fruit cut in halves; cover with ice cream, pack in salt and ice, and let stand one hour.  For ice cream, make custard of two and one-half cups milk, yolks four eggs, one cup sugar, and one-fourth teaspoon salt; strain, cool, add one cup heavy cream and one tablespoon vanilla; then freeze.

-The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, page 380.

You might notice that you need the Lady Finger recipe as well so here it is:

Lady Fingers

Whites 3 eggs
Yolks 2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Beat whites of eggs until stiff and dry, add sugar gradually, and continue beating. Then add yolks of eggs beaten until thick and lemon colored, add flavoring. Cut and fold in flour mixed and sifted with salt. Shape four and one-half inches long and one inch wide on a tin sheet covered with unbuttered paper, using a pastry bag and tube.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and bake eight minutes in a moderate oven. Remove from paper with a knife. Lady Fingers are much used for lining moulds that are to be filled with whipped cream mixtures. They are often served with frozen desserts, and sometimes put together in pairs with a thin coating of whipped cream between, when they are attractive for children’s parties.

-The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, pg. 418.

I know that the recipe gives you an ice cream recipe, but you could really use anyone you wanted, in any flavor you wanted. We used vanilla, but I am sure other flavors might prove good variants. I wanted to include the one we used:

Ice Cream

3 pints sweet cream (heavy whipping cream will work fine)
1 pint powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 quart new milk (whole milk or even 2% could be used, though the fresher the milk, the better.)
2 egg whites, beaten light

Put in freezer till thoroughly chilled through, and then freezer.  This is very easily made.

– The Buckeye Cookbook, 1893.  Pages 177-178.

I like that part in the recipe, “This is very easily made.” You can’t go wrong when something is easily made.

The Breakdown

The Day Before:

We did everything by hand but as always I will give you some tips for your modern kitchen. The first task of preparation went into making the Lady Fingers. I did this a day in advance.  We whipped the eggs with a Dover Egg Beater and it took half an hour. You could use your mixer and probably do in with half the time and considerably less effort. Still, you are looking for a pretty thick meringue:

Keep following the recipe and things should turn out fine. Lady Fingers are really all about the lightness of the egg. Parchment paper works really great as unbuttered paper, and I recommend using the pastry bag. We didn’t, and our Lady Fingers got a little wide:

It’s okay if they aren’t exactly right, you are going to cover them with ice cream anyways!

The oven was probably about 350 when I baked ours, just be sure to keep an eye on them. If you want the really easy way out, pick up some Lady Fingers at the local grocery store or bakery.

The Next Day:

First thing in the morning, we got the ice cream churn moving. The ice cream we used was hand-turned that day. Look for fun facts about ice cream later.

Before too long the ice cream was done and it was time for the layering of the Demi-glacé. Because it was my birthday, instead of strawberries we used peaches, one of my favorite fruits. We lined one bread pan (brick mould) and then decided to try one of our fancy pans as well.  First, the layer of ice cream, then the Lady Fingers.

A layer of peaches (with a little cinnamon thrown in for good measure) and another layer of ice cream completed the mold. It was then set to cool. In 1900 this would probably be done on a block of ice in the cream house or root cellar.

Finally, dessert time came. We soaked the mold ever so slightly in a bath of warm water to melt the sides, and it turned out of the pan beautifully. Cake and ice cream all in one.

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