Hippocras and Krapfen! Wine and Donuts! or Be Still My Ancient Heart!

When I first read about the Gothic Desert Culinary Workshop at the Getty I believe I squealed.  Thats right, my inner nerd escaped me.  It was a liberal arts dream, a 45 minute history and culture lecture, followed by a 30 min walk through the illuminated gothic manuscripts gallery and then into the kitchen for a feast of sweet treats! Be still my ancient-loving heart was all I could think as I stood in a room in the late afternoon flooded by warm light with the smells of butter, cinnamon, cardamon and sugar wafting towards me from every possible direction as nine different recipes were attacked in unison.

The first time I encountered historical artifacts being used to recreate a lost culinary treat was with Midas Touch from Dogfish Head Brewery in 2007.  The beer craftsmen of Dogfish Head collaborate with archeologist to craft beers based on ingredients found in pottery jars from ancient cities and caskets from royal tombs throughout the world.  For someone obsessed recapturing lost arts, going back to the stone age is the ultimate dedication!  So of course when I heard of Gothic Desserts I had to go!  The books were gorgeous illustrated works done on incredibly small scales with text in the margins, running the borders or snaking through illustrations.  The Gold Leaf was impossibly and beautifully bright.  But I found myself lingering at the color display the longest.  The pure saturation of color levitated them.  And then there was the book with the locks.

 I absolutely adore objects that are capable of telling you how to interact with them through thier design and shape.  This book was precious, important and handled slowly. The books depict the culture and customs of the times through their illustrations.  Cheese, butter and bread making.  Communal ovens began to appear in the 13th and 14th century so bread baking became the standard of consuming grains replacing gruel and porridge. Everyone would bring their bread slashed with their family sign to bake. The formation in the 1440s of the Pastry Guild, who controlled the pie making (previously controlled by what ever Guild corresponded with the filling!).  Almond milk was widely used as Milk would spoil too fast and was almost exclusively given to the very young, very old and very sick.  There was no chocolate, vanilla, potatoes, tomatoes, peanuts or avacados as these are all new world foods.  There was however the full blown spice trade.  Lavender, Pepper, Saffron, Giger, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cardamon, Tumeric, and NEWLY Sugar could be found in all dishes savory and sweet.  The origins were kept secret and remained the stuff of legends for centuries.  These same spices keep me in a half swoon whenever I smell heat hit them in modern day.  Which brings me to what we made in the kitchen.

Wardonys (Pears) in Syrup

Torta Bonissima: During a famine in the Middle Ages, a noblewoman from Modena sold all of her assets and gave the proceeds to the poor. This cake is named after her.

Spring Rose Marzipan: Marzipan was introduced to Europe by medieval Arabs and Persians. Rosewater and strawberries make these Marzipan balls irresistible.

Panforte Di Siena: Dates back to early years of exotic spice trade in Italy.

Pignolat: The grand finale of a medieval dinner included warm spiced wine and sweets. Pignolat is a praline made with pinoli, pine nuts,hazelnuts or almonds. It was combined with sugar and aniseed and considered very good for digestion.

Lavendar Pudding: Lavender was a prized gothic herb valued for medicinal, cosmetic and culinary uses. This pudding can be made with any herb or flower in season, violet is used in one of England's earliest cookery books.

It was a banquet.  It was almost impossible too choose which dessert to share.  But in the end the donuts and wine won out for the following reasons:

Hippocras:  While feasting I went back to the desert table three times to get a little something else and found myself filling my glass and nothing on my plate.  This warm spiced wine is incredible.  I found myself wondering the galleries of the Getty after the workshop wrapped in it’s warm intoxication long after the workshop was over

Krapfen: I was on lovely team donut making Krapfen with Bowen of Bowen Appetit! and her history buff man! I couldn’t resist the temptation of popping way too many of these fried puffs into my mouth as they came out of the pan. I took two home for the hubs.  I found him enjoying an afternoon nap.  He woke up straight from a dead sleep when he smelt these, ate one and fell back into the pillows with a huge smile on his face.  Obviously, the stuff of dreams.


Red Spiced Wine

from Gothic Dessert Culinary Workshop and the Getty Center

Hippocras: Spiced wine was thought to have medicinal, digestive and even aphrodisiac properties. Likely named after Hippocrates, the father of Western Medicine.

What you need:

1 bottle dry, red wine  the cheapest will do

1/2 cup sugar

4 cardamon pods

4 cinnamon sticks

4 whole cloves

5 whole peppercorns

1 lemon, cut into thin fourths

What you need to do:

Slice lemons into fourths: cut lemon down the middle, turn onto new flat side and cut once down the middle 3/4ths of the the way through, cut into thin slices moving from cut to the solid side.  Put in a nonreactive container, glass, stainless steel or ceramic and set aside.

Place remaining ingredients, in a saucepot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes.  A simmer should be where the liquid looks like it is on the very verge of boiling but does not!

Remove cardamon pods, cinnamon sticks, cloves and peppercorns. Turn heat off, but keep in pot to retain warmth.  Ladle into a wine glass, squeeze a lemon fourth into wine.  Melt with pleasure.


traditional German treat in the middle ages that sustained the faithful during the fasting period of Lent

rom Gothic Dessert Culinary Workshop and the Getty Center

Krapfen: A German treat traditionally made with butter, eggs, flour and a little sugar.

What you need:

1 cup milk

1/3 cup cane sugar

4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp

2 tbsp rapid rise yeast

5 cups unleached, all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

3 large eggs

3 cups extra virgin olive oil, for frying

Powdered Sugar, for dusting

What you need to do:

In a 1-quart saucepan set over low heat, warm the milk but till you just take the chill off when touched with your finger tips.  Gently stir in sugar, butter and yeast.  Set aside for 10 mins.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together.  In another bowl, whisk eggs gently till yolk and whites are combined.  Create a well in center of flour, pour yeast and eggs mixture into well.  Using a wooden spoon gently incorporate flour from the outside of the bowl into the center of the well until everything is incorporated.  Bring to a shaggy ball, let rest 5 mins.  Turn onto a floured surface and gently knead until it is uniform, elastic, satiny…that baby bottom texture.  Form into a bowl and set aside for 30 mins.

*One of our brilliantinstructors, Nancy Real of The Kitchen Buzzz told us we could speead up the rise by rolling it out and THEN setting it aside for 30 mins.  The increased surface area helping the rise.  A great tip for rolled yeast doughs!

After 30 mins, turn dough onto floured board and with a rolling pin, roll it out.  Set your pin in the center of the dough and roll away from you, bring pin back to center and roll away from you in another direction.  Continue doing this till you you have a circle to a circle about 14 to 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick.  Use a cookie cutter, 2 inches worked beautifully, or the top of a round glass and cut circles into the dough.  Combine scraps, knead for a second to bring together, roll out and cut circles.  Reserve one scrap for testing the oil! Set aside, covered for 10-15 minutes to rise.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 10-12 inch deep fryer of skillet on medium high heat.  When the oil seems heated throw in your scrap.  The oil is hot enough when bubbles are crackling like crazy off your scrap and floats.  Slip dough circles into the oil, dropping them in will result in an awful splatter.  After about 2 minutes or whenever the oil side is golden brown use a slotted spoon to flip and fry on the other side.  Remove rounds and place on a paper towel lined plate.  Cool a few seconds, place powdered sugar in sieve and tap over top of Krapfen to dust.  Serve immediately.

Both these recipes were consumed during lent in Gothic times.  Not a bad month.  As a final moment of the day at the Getty I went to hunt down the Machine D’Argent.  A silver crafted centerpiece for a King’s table.  Author Linda Civitello of Cuisine and Culutre: A History of Food and People who was also at the workshop and told me all about salt, had said it was a masterpiece, the love of her life.  Incredible.  Happy Ancient Feasting!!

Thank you to Robin Trento and Nancy Real for an unbelievable class.


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