Sunday, October 17, 2010

Medieval Desserts And How They Differ From Modern Ones

By Christine Szalay-Kudra

Comparing medieval desserts with modern desserts is like comparing the initial origins of the desserts we enjoy today with what we actually do eat today. Medieval people ate according to their status, so richer ones ate meat, fish, and sweetened, spiced desserts made with local produce.

The wealthy could afford grain such as milled flour and dairy products like butter and cheese. Medieval peasants had to make do with a more basic diet and they would have had to use rye and barley rather than wheat products and honey was used to sweeten foods and drinks. Elaborate desserts would not have been a possibility for the poor.

Medieval Dessert Ingredients

Berries and nuts were grown and used in desserts as well as soup recipes. Fruity desserts were well liked and examples include apple stew, raising pudding and fig stew. Pears were popular too and dishes like pear compote, pears in syrup and pear stew would have appeared on the medieval dinner table.

Sugar and honey added sweetness to medieval dessert recipe and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg enhanced the flavor. These desserts sound delicious but they would have been hard work to make, compared to the easy fluffy jello dessert recipes and instant jello pudding recipes of today.

A common thickening agent in the medieval world was almond milk and this liquid was created by soaking ground almonds in wine, water, or broth. Saffron and "powder douce," which is a combination of sugar, fennel, ground hyssop and aniseed, was also used to flavor medieval dessert recipe.

Changes After the Crusade Period

Soldiers from England, Germany, and France became fond of West Asian flavors during the Crusade period and they missed the juicy lemons and oranges when they returned to their countries. West Asian and Mediterranean ingredients like citrus fruits started to make an appearance in the late medieval kitchen.

Medieval Pastries and Tart Recipes

Oranges, lemons or apples were cooked with honey, sugar and cinnamon and maybe ginger or rosewater too, and cooked in a pie shell. The piecrust would have been made from wheat flour, water, eggs, and butter.

You can recreate medieval desserts like this one but with the modern ingredients available now, it is more common to add gelatin or even a flavored jello to bind the topping or filling and give it a better texture.

Today we have plenty more choice with dessert recipes than our medieval ancestors had. We have more cooking methods to choose from and, thanks to the internet and recipe search engines, it is simple to access thousands of dessert recipes including easy ones like jello recipes.

Cooking in the medieval world would have been slow, hard work because the cooking methods were more basic and there were no handy gadgets to help with the hard and often tedious tasks of cutting, chopping and mixing. Today we have access to modern desserts like jello recipes and jello cheesecake recipes and we can make them with relative ease and in very little time.

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