Master Julio Galva'n Master Julio Galva'n

Torta Sambuca-White Cheesecake with Ginger and Elderflowers

I read Mistress Iasmin’s recipe (1) for the Elderflower White Pie, and it sparked my interest. I decided to try making it for the Baronial Showcase at WW, 2007.

Here is the original recipe, and her redaction:

Original recipes from De honesta voluptate:

Elderberry Pie. Mix with elder flowers all the things which we have noted for white pie. The latter mixture ought to be, however, thicker than the former, because the flowers are distributed throughout. Although this dish is of little nourishment and is digested slowly, nevertheless it makes those eating it frequently happier. Let Caelius eat this, who surpasses Saturn in melancholy. (2)

White Pie. Pound well a pound and a half of the best fresh cheese, cut up especially fine. When it is pounded, mix in twelve to fifteen egg whites, a half pound of sugar, a half ounce of white ginger, a half pound of pork fat, the same of fresh butter, and as much milk as will be enough. When you have spread a thin pastry crust in an earthenware pot, put in all these things. When it has been placed on the hearth, cook on a slow fire. Put coals on the top of the lid so that it will become more colored. When it is cooked and taken from this pot, sprinkle ground sugar with rose water on it. This is very nourishing, is digested slowly, warms the liver, but it causes blockages, generates stone, and is bad for eyes and nerves. (2)

Modern recipe: Elder Flower White Pie

For 8

  • 1 deep-dish pie crust, pre-baked
  • 1 pound fresh ricotta cheese 
  • 8 egg whites, very lightly beaten 
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 ounce fresh ginger root, peeled and minced fine
  • 1/4 pound lard
  • 1/4 pound butter
  • 1/2 cup milk (or less)
  • 1 tablespoon elder flowers dried 
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, for sprinkling
  • rosewater, for sprinkling: OPTIONAL

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Soften the butter and the lard together, preferably at room temperature (do not melt). Place the cheese in a mixing bowl and add the softened butter and lard, mixing well. Add the ginger and mix well. Add the egg whites, mixing as little as possible and only until thoroughly combined. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the milk, checking to see that the consistency does not get soupy. Use less milk to maintain a batter-like appearance. Add the flowers last and mix until just combined.

Add the mixture to a pre-baked pie shell and bake for 40 minutes. When the oil from the pie separates on the top, remove it from the oven and sprinkle it with the extra sugar and optionally with a few drops of rosewater. Place the pie briefly under the broiler and brown the sugar on the top lightly (or use a kitchen torch to brown the top and caramelize the sugar slightly). Cool the pies to room temperature before cutting. The pie will set as it cools.

I made this eagerly, and was disappointed the first time. I found that the mixture of the eggs, cheese and fats separated too much for my taste, and left a somewhat odd texture to the dish. I also found the sugar on top to be distracting with it’s sweetness.

For my second try, I cut the eggs to 6, cut the lard to 4 tablespoons (half of the original) and added cream instead of milk.

The result was better – but still not exactly what I was looking for.

For the third try, and the one I ultimately made for this display, I made a couple more changes. I used half ricotta cheese and half cottage cheese, as I had seen another redaction using cottage cheese instead of ricotta. (3) I added more butter to replace the fat lost from the lard, and I also varied the mixing time, creaming the fats and cheeses more substantially, and mixing the eggs in more thoroughly. And I left the sugar off the top. It just was too much for my taste – although, I may add just a sprinkle just before I serve it. I never used the rosewater, because I thought the tastes would not combine well.

I also found I had to bake it longer than 40 minutes in order to not have soup.

My redaction is as follows:

  • 1 deep-dish pie crust, pre-baked
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese 
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 6 egg whites, beaten moderately 
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 ounce fresh ginger root, peeled and minced fine
  • 4 tablespoons lard
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or less)
  • 1 tablespoon elder flowers dried 
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, for sprinkling OPTIONAL
  • rosewater, for sprinkling: OPTIONAL

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Soften the butter and the lard together. Add cheeses to mixing bowl and mix until creamy. Add the ginger and mix well. Add the egg whites, mixing until combined. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the milk, a little at a time, until combined with mixture. Add the flowers last and mix until just combined.

Add the mixture to a pre-baked pie shell and bake for 45 minutes. The pie will appear ‘jiggly’ and wet, but will firm as it cools. If you’d like, sprinkle the sugar on top for the last few minutes of baking.

I have to be honest – while my tasters thought it was good, I still am not a fan of this recipe. If I were to make this to my modern taste today, I would add whole eggs and make the pie more of a custard. That might be better.

Sources:

(1) Coronation Feast of Dag IV & Elayna II , Mistress Iasmin de Cordoba, http://www.godecookery.com/scafeast/dagela.htm#torta

(2) Milham, Mary Ella. Platina's On Right Pleasure and Good Health. University of North Carolina at Asheville: Pegasus Press, 1999. ISBN: 0866982086. pg 363

(3) Sambocade, http://www.godecookery.com/goderec/grec16.htm

 


Posted by: Gregory Thunder on 10/13/2007

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