Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Melissa: Baked Apples a la Jane Austen's Emma

"There is nothing she likes so well as these baked apples, and they are extremely wholesome, for I took the opportunity the other day of asking Mr. Perry; I happened to meet him in the street. Not that I had any doubt before—I have so often heard Mr. Woodhouse recommend a baked apple. " ~ Emma by Jane Austen

Hello everyone!  The Historical Food Fortnightly officially began at the beginning of this month, and it has been so much fun seeing everyone's historical food creations!  For this challenge, Literature, I chose a novel by one of my favorite authors, Jane Austen.  In Emma, Jane Fairfax is known to frequently indulge in baked apples.  In order to recreate what she might have eaten, I went to The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse, published in 1774.  The receipt is vague, as can be expected from a cookbook of this time.

I chose to look at a few modern recipes for baked apples to see what proportions of things should look like.  This recipe suggests two cloves, and I decided to do three because there were no other spices, and this recipe suggests 3/4 cup of liquid and a pat of butter on the top of each apple, which I chose to do on a few.

"Coarse sugar" also proved to be a confusing instruction.  At first I thought to use brown sugar since that was the cheaper sugar available at the time.  However, after talking to a friend, we determined that the "coarse" modifier likely referred to the fact that the cook did not need to grind the sugar finer and could simply leave it coarse.  With this in mind, I decided to do two different variations on the recipe: one with white refined sugar and one with turbinado sugar.  Refined white sugar would be the finer variety available, taken out for special guests, where an unrefined cane sugar like turbinado sugar would be the everyday fare for the family.

Any good apple recipe, of course, begins with great apples!  I'm spoiled as I have an apple orchard nearby.  I chose Idared apples, but I've seen recipes recommend Granny Smiths if you can't make it out to an orchard or farmer's market.

Washed and ready in the pan - didn't have an earthenware one so this will have to do!

Core and scoop out the innards of the apples

My two choices of sugar - standard fare refined white sugar and organic turbinado sugar.

Fill the apples with sugar (yum!)

Cut a little lemon peel...

And place it in the apple! I suppose H.G. might have meant candied lemon peel, but fresh is what I had on hand.

Butter, the perfect accessory: four of the apples received a pat of butter, not in the original recipe, because BUTTER!

Three cloves topped off each apple

Throw in "special sauce"...

And bake at 375 for one hour!  They don't look great, but they taste amazing!

The Challenge: #1 Literature

The Recipe: Baked Apples in Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery

The Date/Year and Region: 1774, England, in order to represent 1810's England

Time to Complete: About 15 minutes of prep and 1 hour of baking!

Total Cost: I bought a lot of apples for other projects as well, so I maybe used $3 worth in this.  The fancy sugar cost $5 and the cloves were about $2, everything else was already in the kitchen.  All in all, around $10.

How Successful Was It?: Amazing!!! I doubted Ms. Glasse's original recipe because I couldn't imagine just throwing sugar, cloves and lemon peel into an apple would result in any edible thing, but boy was I wrong.  The two experiments I did (one set with all original ingredients plus butter, and one set with sugar, cloves, and butter but no lemon peel) did not turn out as well as the original recipe.  If I were to make this again, I'd like to just use white sugar instead of the turbinado sugar since the white sugar melted into a delicious appley clovey lemony sugar soup in the middle of each baked apple, which was absolutely delightful!

How Accurate Is It?: I'm not sure what the processes are for refining sugar nowadays, but I would guess my modern white sugar is not a period perfect option.  The apple variety I used was introduced in 1930, however it can't be too different from the baking apples available at the time.  I could have potentially used candied lemon peel instead of fresh lemon peel, but I couldn't tell the difference.  As mentioned before, I added butter to a few of the apples.  All in all, it was a delightful experiment!

I can't wait to see what all of you have been cooking up!  Thank you all for your support in this little project - Betsy and I are just floored that anyone else is crazy enough to do this!  Good cooking and Bon Appetit!


  1. This is very much like the kind of apples my mum used to make in the autumn, and I still do them since it's so easy to just take some apples, remove the innards, fill with sugar, and/or syrup and butter. We use to also have crushed nuts on top and serve with a light custard.

    1. That sounds delicious! There are so many variations on baked apples and each sounds more tasty than the next. Just from personal experience: cloves, lemon, and apples go together absolutely beautifully! You should try it!

  2. Laura Boyle, the editor of Cooking With Jane Austen and Friends uses the same Hannah Glasse recipe and interprets it a bit differently. She uses 4 medium apples, 12 cloves, 1 1/2 tsp. lemon peel, 1/4 c. brown sugar, 1 c. red wine or apple juice divided. Your recipe sounds better! I'll have to try it. I like making baked apples in the fall with local apples.