While everyone is baking sourdough bread for the apocalypse, I thought I’d share something else historical you could bake if all that kneading and proofing isn’t your thing. Out of all the period recipes I’ve tried, the one everyone likes the most, and the one I make pretty regularly, is Rout Cakes.
When I did my original research for these, I found plenty of period references to them (dating from 1807 onward), but no recipes before 1824. Even the recipe in Tea With Jane Austen is from 1840. The recipes I did find bear very little resemblance to one another, especially as there are “drop” versions and versions that sound more like a thin cake batter (which call for icing), some call for currants, some don’t. It seems to be no different from modern recipes, e.g. some chocolate chip recipes call for nuts, some don’t (mine calls for a packet of pistachio pudding mix, but I bet most of yours don’t). Seeing as there’s no one way to make them, I don’t feel an ounce of guild about taking a small bit of creative license here and there.
A New System of Domestic Cookery (1824):
The Cook and Housewife’s Manual (1827):
This 1827 recipe for Kent Drop-Cakes looks remarkable similar to the 1824 one for Rout Drop-Cakes:
So, once again I was left to tinker. I liked the idea of sweet wine (I went with sherry) and brandy. And I think currants are starting to grow on me . . . I couldn’t find orange blossom water on short notice, so I used a bit of zest. The dough came out at the constancy of Nestle Tollhouse cookie dough, and when baked, the finished product was similar to a modern currant scone (or at least it’s similar to the ones they sell at Peet’s Coffee and Tea here in the Bay Area).
- 1 cup butter (softened)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp sherry
- 2 tsp brandy
- Zest of one orange
- OR 2 tsp orange blossom water (if you can find it)
- OR 2 tsp orange liqueur (Cointreau, Gran Marnier, etc.)
- 3 ¾ cups flour
- ½ cup currants
Preheat oven to 350º
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and beat. Add vanilla, sherry, brandy and zest or orange water/liqueur and mix. Add in flour 1 cup at a time. Add currants with last ¾ cup of flour.
Dough will be cookie-like. Make rounded balls the size of walnuts and bake on a parchment paper or Silpat 20-25 min (until golden). They puff up a bit, but don’t spread so you can put them relatively close together.
My friends’ reactions:
My sister ate the ones I left her and texted “Cookies. Yum!”. Amie thought they were “Medieval, but tasty”. Issa loved them (he’s easy to please). Kristie and I thought they were perfect with a glass of sherry, and would be wonderful with tea. We all agreed that they’d be exceptional with a little orange icing/glaze (orange juice mixed with powdered sugar). Liza’s daughter (who’s just starting to eat real food) ate two (ok, she ate one and crumbled one on the floor for the dogs, who begged for more). Children and pets clearly approve.
I came late to loving the Regency, not until I started writing in 1995. I’d read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility in some English class along the way, but it wasn’t until my writing pals Helen and Julie introduced me to Georgette Heyer and Regency Romance (the Signets and Zebras) that I began to really fall in love with the Regency.
One event clinched it.
Helen, Julie, and I went to see the 1995 Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds movie Persuasion, which had been a BBC TV production in the UK but released in theaters in the US. It was this movie adaptation of a Jane Austen book I’d never read that made the Regency come alive for me.
From the country house of the Elliots to the chic rooms in Bath to the simple seaside abode of the Harviles, the Regency world the move depicted seemed so real to me. Maybe it was because the whole movie was filmed on location, but, even so, the details were not prettied up for film. The livery of the Elliot footmen looked a bit shabby, as it would have for a baronet whose fortunes were dwindling. Skirts and boots got muddy during country walks, as they would have in a time without paved walkways. The dancing was boisterous but not polished and practices, as professional dancers would have performed. The hero and heroine were attractive but not “beautiful people.”
The Regency people in the story also acted in ways I believed were true to the period. The emphasis on status, on honor and obligation seemed genuine to me. There were bored privileged young women, proud impoverished ones, scheming social climbers. There were also “normal” people, like the Musgroves and the Crofts. And Ann and Wentworth, of course.
Jane Austen may have been exploring the role of persuasion throughout the story, but she also crafted a lovely, satisfying romance, with familiar Romance themes. Persuasion is both a reunion story (Ann and Captain Wentworth were once betrothed) and a Cinderella story (Ann, the put-upon sister finds great love in the end). The conflict was poignant – Ann regretted breaking her betrothal to Wentworth; Wentworth remained bitter that she threw him off in order to seek better prospects.
There’s a lovely villain in Ann’s cousin, William Elliot, who becomes intent on courting her, and more complications ensue when Wentworth considers himself obligated to marry the injured Louisa Musgrove. The steps Ann and Wentworth each make to find their way back to each other are subtle, but very satisfying and very typical of romance novels of today.
After seeing the movie, I had a picture in my mind that was my Regency. I read Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice and all of Jane Austen’s books, even Lady Susan. Persuasion is one of the few books I’ve read more than twice. I’ve watched the movie more times than that. The social attitudes from Jane Austen’s books seeped into my brain, as did the language, the rhythm of the conversation.
So you might say Jane Austen helped create my Regency world! And now I’ve decided to write my own Persuasion story. It is just the germ of an idea right now, but, if all goes well, it should be for sale late this year or early next year.
It will be my homage to Jane Austen and her wonderful book, Persuasion.
(I adapted this blog from an earlier one written in 2012)
Today I’ll continue the dance series I began on July 6, with some notes about the cotillion and the quadrille, dances which were common in the early Regency and the late Regency, respectively. While there is a great deal of overlap in some characteristics of these dances, their prevalence in the ballroom does not seem to have overlapped much at all.
Jane Austen wrote to her niece Fanny in 1816, “Much obliged for the quadrilles, which I am grown to think pretty enough, though of course they are very inferior to the cotillions of my own day.” Jane was past her dancing prime by then and was referring to music sheets, but as so often happens even today, was not a fan of the “new” style of dancing that the younger people loved.
The Cotillion was a French country dance for four couples popular in England in the late 18th century. While it often began with a circling figure and included later small circles, most of the dance was performed in a square, with various “changes”, or figures that moved in and out of that main formation and allowed for changes of partners.
Because the cotillions came from France, many kept their French names. The only dance Jane Austen ever mentions by name, “La Boulangerie” is a cotillion. Here is a video so you can see what it was she so enjoyed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLUzvSXguQY
There were many various types of cotillion dances: “waltz cotillions” and “allemande cotillions” for instance. They included some figures also commonly found in English country dances and reels, and later the quadrilles, so there is a shared basis between the types of dances.
For instance, four of the basic quadrille segments are also found in cotillions: Les Pantalons, L’Eté, La Poule and La Pastorale. Many steps are also shared, but in style and music the dances are quite different. Quadrille enthusiasts denounced the cotillion as old-fashioned and “belonging with the ancient minuet.”
The word “cotillion” changed during the 19th century from referring to the specific type of dances to the more modern usage, referring instead to a dance event, even specifically to a dance event for debutantes. Just know that during the Regency era, that was not what it meant!
Captain Gronow wrote in his memoirs about the first appearance of the Quadrille at London’s elite social venue, Almack’s: “In 1814, the dances at Almack’s were Scotch reels and the old English country-dance; and the orchestra, being from Edinburgh, was conducted by the then celebrated Neil Gow. It was not until 1815 that Lady Jersey introduced from Paris the favourite quadrille, which has so long remained popular.”
The quadrille became a craze, so popular that it overtook all other forms of dance being done at this time, except for the waltz (topic for Part 3 of this series), introduced at about the same time. Cartoonists of the day, such as Gilroy and Cruikshank, could not be expected to resist ridiculing such a vibrant fad, especially as it required some skill and practice. “Accidents while dancing the Quadrille” was a popular caption.
Like the cotillion, this was a dance form with four couples arranged in a square. Unlike the cotillion, it consisted of five sections or movements, each with its own complicated sequence of figures and music, with differing time signatures. Also unlike the cotillion, in the quadrille, the couples took turns performing the steps, with the head couples leading and the side couples resting until their turn. (Given the exertion required and the length of the dances, this was no doubt a blessing!)
This video gives a good sense of the dance –watch as much as you wish, just know it lasts 11 minutes and 19 seconds! Paine’s First Set of Quadrilles (1815) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSD37PF2_Dw
Here is a video that shows “The Mozart Cotillion” being danced at Chawton House (yes, I thought you’d like that!) 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEsAijdGT20
I hope you are enjoying these dance notes and finding them helpful to visualize Regency dancing for your reading or writing pleasure! Part 3 on the Waltz will be posted on July 25.