Brigitte Webster Makes ‘Spiced Pear Pie’ (via Thomas Dawson)

To bake Peares, quinces, and wardens. You must take and pare them, and then coare them: then make your paste with faire water and Butter, and the yolke of an Egge, and sette your Orenges into the paste, and then bake it well: Then fill your paste almost ful with Sinamon, Ginger and Sugar: also apples must be taken after the same sort, saving that whereas the core should be cut out they must be filled with butter everie one: the hardest apples are best, and likewise are Peares and wardens, and none of them all but the Wardens may be perboiled, and the oven must be of a temperate heat, two houres to stand is enough.

Thomas Dawson, A Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin (1594)

I’ve been chatting on Twitter and email with Brigitte Webster, a practitioner of living history who runs The Tudor and Seventeenth Century Experience from an absolutely stunning historic house in Norfolk. I’ll let Brigitte explain what the Experience offers, via the introductory text from her website:

“The Tudor and 17th Century Experience is an exclusive Tudor and 17th Century themed immersion history retreat to the south of Tudor Norwich in Norfolk. We are based in this stunning original Tudor manor house dating from 1514 to enable our guests to really absorb the flavours of life in Tudor England. It is our mission to make your time here as authentic as possible with every attention to detail, from home made food from authentic Tudor and Stuart era recipes to period entertainments. All furniture in the house is period correct from dining to sleeping. Feel free to walk around the beautiful Tudor inspired gardens, indulge in Tudor outdoor pursuits – perhaps even in Tudor costume!”

All of which sounds like a rather superb way to spend a weekend to me. Brigitte also offers lectures and courses on everything from Tudor and Renaissance cookery and food growing to Tudor-era garden design and furniture.

In return for my helping to identify a few of the apples in Brigitte’s Victorian-era orchard, she very kindly sent me the Tudor-era recipe at the top of this blog post. It’s from A Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin – from which I’ve previously featured a quick and easy recipe for Apple Pescods – and describes a really interesting sounding method for baking whole pears in an orange-flavoured pastry case[1], with lots of sugar, cinnamon and ginger.

Much better than just sending the original recipe though: Brigitte has adapted the recipe and baked a modern version of Dawson’s dish, turning it into the rather glorious-looking fruit pie shown below.

I’ll let Brigitte describe her dish and the method for making it:

Image copyright © Brigitte Webster, used with permission

“This pie is amazingly delicious and the best way into a Tudor man’s heart! The recipe is so very iconic for an early recipe, as it describes what apples are most suitable to use when in the title it only mentions pears and quince. It also helps to know that the mentioned ‘oranges’ are the candied peels and not the fresh fruit.”

Ingredients:

  • Short pastry
  • 1 handful of chopped candied orange peels – available from the baking section at your supermarket
  • 3-4 medium or 2-3 large pears, ideally a cooking variety
  • Cinnamon, ground ginger, sugar to taste
  • 1 teaspoonful of unsalted butter
  • 1 spoonful of flour for dusting your baking dish

Method:

  • Grease and dust baking dish with flour.
  • Roll out and line baking dish with pastry, leaving enough for a lid.
  • Fill candied orange peel into dish with pastry and bake in the oven at medium heat – around 180°C, or as close as you can get in an Aga – for about 15-20 mins. It is more important to allow the pastry to bake long enough without it ending up burned at the top and still unbaked at the bottom. Even heat is best.
  • Remove from oven and add chopped pear, sugar and spices. Add a little butter on top and make a pastry lid. Close up with lid and bake again at medium heat for another 25 mins or until golden brown.
  • When ready, remove from oven and serve still hot!

Well, that sounds absolutely delicious to me. All that candied orange peel, pear and spice… and with a dollop of thick cream, or maybe lashings of hot custard? Heavenly.

Huge thanks to Brigitte for sending in her recipe. If you’re interested in experiencing more of the Tudor lifestyle – including Tudor -era recipes like this one – head on over to Brigitte’s website at www.tudorexperience.com for more information.

As always, if you are inspired to make Brigitte’s spiced pear pie, or would like to try Thomas Dawson’s original method for baking whole pears, wardens, quinces or apples in a pastry case, please do let me know how you get on. You can leave a comment below, or send me an email with your own notes and photos.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 The received wisdom tends to be that, back in the day, the pastry – or ‘paste’ as it was called – wasn’t meant to be eaten, it was there to provide a lining for the baking dish, to prevent the contents from scorching during cooking, perhaps? But in this case, using ‘faire water and Butter‘ and then flavouring the pastry with oranges, perhaps this one was meant to be eaten after all? Sounds like an investigation for another day.

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