[Sca-cooks] Looking for a Roman sweet

Euriol of Lothian euriol at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 17 14:02:32 PST 2010

I had a great time working that feast with you... If it helps, when I worked on the sweet must cakes, I essentially treated the fat and flour as if I were making a short bread... cutting the ingredients together before adding the liquids... at least, that is how I remember it.


----- Original Message ----
From: "lilinah at earthlink.net" <lilinah at earthlink.net>
To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org
Sent: Wed, February 17, 2010 4:57:08 PM
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Looking for a Roman sweet

Raphaella wrote:
>  Some of my friends are putting together a Roman feast and they are looking
>  for one more recipe to round out the menu. They've already got some savory
>  biscuit/ cookies, but they are looking for small sweet that could
>  preferably be made in advance as well.
>  Please let me know if you have any suggestions, recipes or sources to
>  recommend.

Here are some of the other desserts we made for the Greco-Roman feast. The feast was for over 80 people. They weren't always perfect, but i included notes for improvement. And let me add that Euriol helped on this feast, as you will see noted below, and she was a great help.

CONDITUM Paradoxum: Spiced Wine (White Grape Juice) Surprise

Spiced Wine Surprise is made as follows: 15 lb. of honey are put in a metal vessel into which you have previously put 2 pints of wine, so as to boil down the wine while cooking the honey. It is heated over a slow fire of dry wood, stirring all the while with a stick; when it begins to boil over it is checked by adding [cold] wine; it also sinks when removed from the fire. When cool it is heated once more. This must be done a second and third time, and only then is it removed from the fire, and skimmed on the following day. Then take 4 oz. pepper, 3 scruples of pounded mastic, a handful each of aromatic leaf [tejpat/malabathron] and saffron, 5 roasted date-stones, the dates softened in wine, having previously been soaked in wine of the right kind and quality, so as to produce a soft mash. These preparations completed, pour over 18 pints of sweet wine. In the end add coals, if it is too bitter.
[ ----- Apicius, Book I, Chapter I, Recipe 1]

This should have been made with wine. However, SCA rules do not allow the purchase of wine or other alcohol for serving as beverages with organization moneys. Therefore I substituted white grape juice, spiked with Middle Eastern sour white grape juice so it wouldn't be too cloying.

My Version:
5-1/3 cans White Grape Juice Concentrate
Water, enough to make 2 gallons of juice
10 fresh Dates, soaked in juice
3 lb. Honey
1/2 cup White Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup Verjus/Sour White Grape Juice
1-1/2 Tb. ground Black Pepper
10 Tejpat/Malabathron Leaf/Bay Leaves
3/4 tsp. Saffron
1 tsp. Gum Mastic

1. Reconstitute juice.
2. Soak dates in a small amount of juice until soft.
3. When soft, put in blender with a bit more juice and blend until pureed and liquidy.
4. Mix 6 cups of juice with honey and bring to boil.
5. Add seasonings and dates and cook on medium-low heat for a while, until mastic melts.
6. Add remainder of juice, then stir in vinegar and verjus to taste.
NOTE: The mastic never completely dissolves (at least it didn't while i did this), and some of it sticks to the bay leaves.
7. Let stand overnight.
8. Strain/decant. Some of the pepper settled out, and we intentionally left it behind when we decanted the juice. I like the bite it added but i was concerned diner might find it unexpected and unpleasant.
9. Serve.
10. Diluted to taste with water, if desired.

I really tried to find tejpat/malabathron leaves. There is a significant South Asian community where i live and i went to South Asian markets and asked for them. I was shown some leaves that looked a lot like bay, and when i asked the proprietors they said that this is what they use in the US and it tastes a lot like the original. While I am not utterly convinced they taste the same, if that's what they use here, that's what i used.

Perhaps pulverizing the mastic gum would have been better... or using already powdered mastic.

This was a surprise hit. Several folks who said they very much disliked grape juice asked me for the recipe.



Must cakes to be made thus: two gallons of bread-wheat flour to be moistened with must; add to this anise, cumin, 2 lb. lard, 1 lb. cheese, and grate in the park of a bay twig; when you have shaped them, put bay leaves under them while you cook them.
[ ----- Cato the Censor, De Agricultura, 121]

I used a tad over 1 cup of must as that was all the container had and it was expensive. Next time i will use homemade raisin juice, which is what it tasted a lot like, and i will add add more.

My Version:
4 lb unbleached white wheat flour
1 cup must
   - - - or - scant 1/2 cup red wine - plus - scant 1/2 cup red grape juice concentrate
   - - - or - soak 1/4 to 1/2 cup dark raisins in 1-1/2 cups warm water until soft and plump.
Strain out, squeezing liquid out of raisins. There should be about 1 cup of liquid
1 lb. butter alone or mixed with sesame oil
1-1/4 lb. farmer or pot cheese, or *real* cream cheese without gums
(i.e., NOT Philadelphia brand or those like it)
3 Tb. lightly toasted anise seeds
3 Tb. roasted cumin seeds
80 bay leaves

1. Toast cumin and anise seeds separately.
2. Mix butter and soft cheese.
3. Work butter and soft cheese into flour by hand.
4. Mix in whole toasted seeds.
5. Mix in must or wine-and-grape juice or raisin juice.
6. Cover 2 jelly roll/sheet pans with a single layer of bay leaves.
7. Divide dough into two equal balls.
8. Pat each dough ball down a bit.
9. Lay one ball over the bay leaves on one sheet, and pat out until it covers the baking sheet completely. Repeat with other ball.
10. Bake 350 degrees F. for 15 min or until golden.
11. Score thoroughly into 50 bars per pan while still warm.
12. Cool in pan.
13. Break out bars to serve.

To be perfectly honest, i didn't really have or use a recipe for these. I just winged it. I hauled the ingredients to the site kitchen, and with a some guidance from Euriol - since it has been a very long time since i baked cookie like things - i just faked it. So the recipe above is not really quite what i used or what i did. But since i just improvised, you can take this info and improv your own.

I left out the cumin seeds at the feast.

This could have taken some additional sweetener besides the must.

The resulting bars were somewhat crunchy on top, and soft and chewy on the bottom. I found them very pleasing. I guess others did too, as there were none left over. And I'd like to make them again!


SAVILLUM : Roman cheese cake

Make a savillum thus: Mix 1/2 libra of flour and 2 1/2 librae of cheese, as is done for libum. Add 1/4 libra of honey and 1 egg. Grease an earthenware bowl with oil. When you have mixed the ingredients well, pour into the bowl and cover the bowl with an earthenware testo. See that you cook it well in the middle where it is highest. When it is cooked, remove the bowl, spread with honey, sprinkle with poppy, put it back underneath the testo for a moment, and then remove. Serve it thus with a plate and spoon.
[ ----- Cato the Censor, de Agricultura (84)]

My Version:

Prior to Feast
1 lb Flour
5 lb Ricotta Cheese
1/2 lb Honey
3 Eggs
(pinch of Salt might be good)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter baking dishes (a Pyrex bowl for each table would be nice... dream on...)
Mixed flour, cheese, honey, and eggs well.
Pour into baking dishes, cover with foil.
Bake until set (not dry) in the middle, about 30 minutes (test with toothpick or knife).

On Site
additional Honey
Black Poppy Seeds

Spread honey on top of cheese cakes and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Put under the broiler briefly to melt honey.

This was rather thin and dry. I think it was cooked too long. The original implies that it isn't a thoroughly dry dish. Needs further experimentation to perfect. It was mostly all eaten anyway.

-- Urtatim [that's err-tah-TEEM]
the persona formerly known as Anahita
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