Inventing Coffee Cake

Do You REALLY Live Here?

My Life As A Pilgrim

(the title of my yet to be written memoir….)

Chapter Six

Travel, travel back in time……..

And then there was the day we invented coffee cake.

Since most of Europe wasn’t all that into coffee in 1627, it’s really much more impressive then it sounds.

But we were young…..and we knew so little

me 1981 Joe Carlin

Seriously, young. What I looked like c. 1981.

baking bread Jean-François_Millet_1854 Kroller-Muller Museum

What I thought I looked like….Millet, for want of a 17th century role model (then – remember – no internet!)

It started out simply as baking.

Bread.

We baked and baked and baked. We baked just about everyday. We learned a lot about bread very quickly. But we did not know that there were actual 17th century instructions for bread. And we had the assumptions of the 1970’s – remember the Bi-Centennial? – to guide us.

Plat-bread-1

We didn’t know about this recipe. No internet. Not that many books on food history.

Basic bread – Four ingredients.

Flour. Water. Salt. Leaven.

We got it.

'Still life with a glass of Rhine wine, bread and fruits' by Sebastian Stosskopf (Alsatian painter, 1597-1657), 1644

We made bread that looked like the bread in the 17th century paintings.

And we learned to use the wood fired oven, before EVERYONE had a wood fired oven. And we were good at it. We saw the potential to use pizza as a training tool to learn about the wood fired oven.

Massive buy-in. Who wouldn’t want to help for pizza?

We got….a little bored by four, just four, always the same four, ingredients…

So we started

…..adding things.

Many things you can add to bread and they rather disappear in the loaf, at least visually.

A little sugar. We used brown sugar then  – because we didn’t have sugar loaves and most of us didn’t know we should want them.

still-life-with-fruit-and-sugar-loaf_unknown_about-1720

1720

Brown_sugar_examples

Because obviously brown sugar is more Oldie- Timie, right?

Butter. To make it richer.

A little milk Ditto.

A few eggs….why not?

chickens-at-Plimoth-Platation

Got hens? Use hen-fruit!

Not all at once, not every time, but more things, more frequently.

And then a few spices crept in.

cinnamon

Cinnamon

Ingwer_2_fcm

Ginger

Muscade

Nutmeg

ClovesDried

Cloves

Hmmmmm – that could be a song…..

Of All the Birds

Of all the birds that ever I see
The owl is the fairest in her degree:
For all the day long she sits on a tree
And when the night cometh away flies she.

Tu whit — Tu whoo,
To whom drink’st thou? — Sir Knave, to thee.
My song is well sung, I’ll make you a vow
That he is a knave that drinketh now.

Nose, nose, nose, nose,
And who gave thee thy jolly red nose?
Cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg and cloves:
that gave me my jolly red nose.

 

And then

 

Raisins.

More properly, raisins of the sunn.

Grape_Rasins_plus_Zante_Currants

Raisins and Currents – both are dried grapes, just different sized grapes.

The thing with raisins, is that everyone can see them.

Sometimes they are mistaken for flies….sometimes they concealed flies…….but with raisins you’ve made raisin bread, and everyone knows what that is.

So you learn to put the raisins in last and pull the un-raisined dough down around them….

We thought we’d made cinnamon raisin bread. But really, we had re-invented Gervase  Markham’s Banbury Cake.

Banbury_Cake_Gervase_Markham_1615

Because we didn’t know there were perfectly good cakes we could have made without any slights of hand and amazing feats of prestidigitation.

This was all in 1981 and 1982….it was Michael Best’s edition of The English Housewife where we saw the error – and genius – of our ways.

That wasn’t until 1986.

Markbested

We didn’t see it as coffee cake, or think of it as coffee cake, and certainly didn’t call it coffee cake. Bread . It was Bread.

UNTIL a day in 1981…in the fall….and a reporter for the Boston Globe was there when we were taking the loaves out of the oven and asked if it was coffee cake.…..

apearce

1981 – Abraham Pearce in the 1627 Village. This was the story the papers had come for. Or Thanksgiving. They were always there for Thanksgiving.

We neither agreed nor disagreed.

We may have pointed out a passing flock of geese overhead. Or those hens squawking about….and goats, we probably pointed to the goats, frolicking and gamboling as goats do…..

Perhaps another housewife threw the dishwater out her door, yelling, “Ware Slops!” like we used to do.

We may have sung…..

We all held our collective breath until the picture ran in the paper. The coffee cake was merely identified as bread, although if you looked close you could see the raisins…..

Just another day making history.

 

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Filed under Bread, Cake, Perception ways, The 17th century, The 1980's

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