[Sca-cooks] Cofyns

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Sun Mar 4 19:57:19 PST 2007

Coffin, in any of its various spellings, is usually a reference to a 
container; a basket, a box, a chest or a pie shell.  There are some more 
obscure meanings, but let's stick with the container.  The word in this 
usage appears from at least the early 15th Century into the 18th Century. 
In most references, they are talking about a pastry pie shell, but Hugh Plat 
makes reference to "coffins of white plate" in Delights for Ladies.

Coffins range from a hard paste of flour and water to Elizabethean pie 
shells that are apparently meant to be eaten.  According to the OED, there 
is a reference to coffins from "1420 Cookery Bk." that reads, "make fayre 
past of flowre & water, Sugre, & Safroun & Salt; & then make fayre, round 
cofyns thereof." (substituting "th" for the Middle English thorn symbol). 
In this case, the addition of sugar makes me think this coffin was meant to 
be eaten.  From the 1420 date, the source is probably Harleian 279.

IIRC, the earliest addition of fat to a pie shell recipe, which would 
improve the edibility, is mid-15th Century.


> Here's a question that came up while I was helping to judge the Royal 
> Baker
> competition in Atlantia:
> When a recipe refers to a "Cofyn", does it ALWAYS mean an inedible pie 
> crust
> or is there room to assume/prove that it was an edible crust?
> Thanks!  Any leads for research would be appreciated!
> Vitha
> Lady Hrosvitha von Celle

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