[Sca-cooks] Tart Owte of Lent Recipe

Elise Fleming alysk at ix.netcom.com
Fri Mar 28 10:39:35 PDT 2008

Greetings!  Here is the result of my experimenting with a cheese tart from
the 15th century.

For tarts owte of lente.  (#23 in Stere Htt Well; also page 7 in Richard
Fitch’s A Noble Boke of Cokery)

Take neshe chese and pare hit and grynd hit yn A mortar and breke egges and
do thee to and then put yn buttur and creme and mell all well to gethur put
not to moche butter ther yn if the chese be fatte make A coffin of dowe and
close hit a bove with dowe and color hit a bove with the yolkes of eggs and
bake hit well and serue hit forth.

My interpretation, based on the Hampton Court cooks’ version: 
Dough:  (Twice the flour by weight as butter.)  I used ½ pound of butter to
one pound of flour and added a little salt.  The butter was cold, not soft.
I mixed it by hand until I couldn’t feel any lumps of butter.  This took
10+ minutes.  I then refrigerated the mixture for a while.  This made a
total of 6 cups.  After refrigeration (about ½ hour), I took three cups of
the mixture and added a little water into a well in the center of the
mixture.  (The remaining 3 cups were put aside and frozen for later use.) 
I cut the water in with a knife, adding more as needed and being careful
not to add too much.  When it looked right, I kneaded it into a ball and
refrigerated it again while I worked on the filling.  

For the filling, I used .81 pounds (the size of the wedge as purchased) of
Cheshire cheese which the Hampton Court cooks used.  I tried their method
of slicing the cheese into thin slabs, then slicing those into narrow
strips and then dicing those into tiny pieces.  This took a long time and
my muscles protested by the end.  I added two tablespoons (approximately)
of soft butter and ended up using three eggs with about ¼ cup of heavy
cream.  Two eggs and more cream might have been better since the three eggs
made the filling moister than that used at Hampton Court.  I tried to
stiffen up the mixture by refrigerating it until the coffyn was ready.

I took about ¾ of the refrigerated dough mixture and rolled it out to about
3/8 of an inch, then laid a bowl on it and cut around the bowl for a round
shape.  I then tried to pinch up the edges as done on the Hampton Court
video.  It’s harder than the video makes it appear!  It ended up being
about 8 ½ inches across.  I then filled it with the cheese mixture.  (I
probably overfilled it, although none spilled over or split the crust.)

Because my dough was a bit “floppier” than the one made at Hampton Court, I
couldn’t move the filled tart to use it as a template for the lid so I used
the same bowl as for the “base” and made it an additional ½ inch
(approximately) larger.  Before attaching the lid to the coffyn, I smeared
the underside with water to help it stick to the other dough.  Then I
folded it over the top edge, pushing it down a little in the inside.  I
believe the Hampton Court coffyn was lower in the inside than mine (but I’d
put in all my filling) and I couldn’t recall if at Hampton Court the top
crust was pressed down the outside or if it was almost the same size as the
coffyn with the edges joining at the top rather than over the side.  (I
think it was joined at the top rather than the way I did it.  That’s the
way they did the chewitts.  But, it worked.)  The only difficulty with
joining over the side was that I needed to pinch up the fluted parts where
they were when the coffyn was originally formed.

I mixed up one egg yolk with a little water and spread it on the top.  I
pricked a small hole in the center of the lid and enlarged it with the end
of a wooden spoon.  The tart went onto a metal sheet which had been
sprinkled with flour, placed in a pre-heated oven, and baked for 40
minutes.  My new oven tends to run hotter than listed so I set it for 345
degrees Fahrenheit.  I will go to 350 next time.  The top came out nicely
golden but the crust wasn’t fully baked, I found out, when I cut into it. 
I let the tart cool for about half an hour before cutting a slice.  The
slice was firm, not runny, thanks to three eggs and kept its shape.  My
tart seemed to be more homogenous – not as cheese-lumpy – as what I recall
from Hampton Court.  The taste was just as good, I think.

I think next time I will see about using a food processor for grinding up
the cheese, but the hand method for the dough worked fine.  I just don't
know why mine was less stiff - maybe too much water?

Alys Katharine

Elise Fleming
alysk at ix.netcom.com

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