Fromage d’Enguien; or, Turns out it was cheese after all

Mrs Hindle is not deterred by weirdness and so today I’m going back to (probably) Moutier and his instructions on how to cook for French toffs – the “Dictionnaire Portatif de Cuisine, D’Office, et de Distillation”. Today’s recipe is for a cream cheese called Fromage d’Enguien.

I tried to find out who or what d’Enguien was and why there was a cheese called after it, and the closest I can get to is Enghien, a county in modern-day Belgium. The Duc d’Enghien is a noble title first created in the 16th century. Later the title itself was separated from the actual landholdings and the name Duke of Enghien became a courtesy title held by the oldest son of the Prince of Condé, a now-extinct branch of the French royal Bourbon-family. At the time the Dictionnaire Portatif was published, in 1767, the Prince of Condé was 31-year-old Louis Joseph de Bourbon, recently-widowed and in the middle of a scandalous love affair with the wife of the prince of Monaco. Their illicit affair lasted until the death of the prince of Monaco in 1795, after which the two were married. His son Louis Henri, who was the 11-year-old Duke of Enghien in 1767, went on to be the last of the Condé line after his son was executed by Napoleon.

Since my book is in Finnish I won’t write out the full recipe, I’ll just walk you through what I did. What you need for this cream cheese is:

  • pinte, or 0,9 liters of milk
  • 1 chopine, or 4,7 dl of cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 lemons, the grated rind from one and the juice from both
  • sugar (3 tblsp)
  • orange-blossom water (1 tblsp)

The recipe doesn’t specify the amount of sugar or orange-blossom water needed, so I made it up and gave you the amounts I used.

Start by grating the rind from one lemon. Then squeeze the juice from both into a pinte (0,9 liters) of water.

Separate the eggs into whites and yolks. Put the whites into a metal bowl and whisk them. You might as well whisk them in a saucepan since you’ll need one later on anyway. Add the yolks one at a time and keep whisking, all the while thanking your lucky stars you have an electric beater. I did wonder why the instructions insisted on separating the eggs since they would all get beaten together anyway, but I swear the end result was frothier than if I had whisked them without separating them first.

Into the egg-froth you pour the milk, cream, orange-blossom water, sugar and lemon rind. The recipe says you can also add a little salt, but I didn’t.

Now set your saucepan on the stove and start heating it all up carefully. Make sure your saucepan is big enough – I used a 3-liter one and it was barely sufficient, but it’s the biggest one I have. Must invest in more voluminous equipment.

Keep a close eye on your mixture as it heats up, and keep your lemon water at hand. The moment it begins to boil, drizzle some lemon water into the pot in a circular motion along the sides. The lemon water stops it from boiling over, and starts to curdle the milk at the same time.

This pot is barely big enough. I shudder to think what would have happened if I had been a little bit too slow in pouring in the lemon water. Mr Hindle complains enough as it is about having to clean up after me in the kitchen.

Wait for it to boil up again, and drizzle some more water. Repeat this five or six times. When you’ve used all your lemon water take the pot off the stove and let it cool for a while.

Get a cheese cloth and a cheese form, or, failing that, a colander. I only have a colander. A cheese cloth is handy though, but any cloth that allows water to drain through it will work. Using a skimmer, lift your curdled mixture from the pot and into the colander. Suspend the colander over a bigger bowl, otherwise you’ll have a mess on your hands.

I have a good feeling about this.

In hindsight I should perhaps have patted the mixture down a bit into the form, now I just left it to drain for four or five hours in the fridge.

The recipe recommends eating the cheese with whipped cream and sugar, but I chose to serve it as it was, with some fresh bread.

What I ended up with, once I tipped it out of the colander, was a creamy and mild cheese with a delicate taste of lemon and orange-blossom. It was easy, too – the recipe looks convoluted and time-consuming, but really, it only took 20 minutes or so in addition to the cooling and setting. It was perhaps not the prettiest of cheeses, but if I’d had a nicer form to have it settle in it would have looked as good as it tasted.

Oulu loaf; or, bread for the entire extended family

This blog has been plagued by assorted recipe-related failures (not all of which I’ve actually blogged about yet) lately, so today I’m going with something safe and unadventurous – bread. I’m also going with a safe and unadventurous cookbook: “Kotiruoka” (“Home-cooking”), a Finnish cookbook for homes and schools written and published in 1908 by three ladies about whom I haven’t found out very much yet.

Edit Reinilä-Hellman, Sofie Calonius and Valma Krank-Heikinheimo were probably home economics teachers, because their names appear on several cookbooks from the early decades of the 20th century with titles suggesting educational purposes. “Kotiruoka” is a Finnish classic. First published in 1908, it had gone through nine editions by the time my copy came out in 1923. It is now onto its 74th edition, though the current version holds little in common with the first editions. “Kotiruoka” is one of those books that gets scribbled in and passed down, and though mine came from a flea market rather than being passed down in the family, it has been scribbled in. A lady by the name of Helga has inscribed her name and the date 31.5.1925 on the first page, and the book has been embellished with numerous hand-written recipes and newspaper clippings. Some of these are from ad recipes for Rumford’s baking powder.

Rumford started making baking powder in 1856 in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, and by the turn of the century the company had a significant slice of the baking powder market. The ads that have been glued into my book urge the reader to ask for Rumford at the colonial goods store. Let that irony sink in for a moment.

But now, to the bread! I chose a recipe called Oulun limppu. Oulu is a city in central Finland, and limppu is a loaf-shaped leavened bread with a sourish taste and soft texture. Bread has a central place in Finnish food culture, and limppu-style breads were an integral part of the Christmas spread.

Ingredients:

  • 50 g yeast
  • 1 liter lukewarm buttermilk
  • 2 dl syrup
  • 2 tbslp powdered bitter orange peel[1]
  • 1 tbslp salt
  • 1½ tblsp crushed caraway seeds
  • 800 g wheat flour
  • 800 g rye flour

[1] Bitter oranges are also known as Sevilla oranges and marmalade oranges, and would you have guessed it, they’re used for making Sevilla marmalade. The peel, when dried and ground into powder, is a bitter-tasting but fragrant spice that is used in traditional Finnish baking, especially gingerbread and loaf bread or limppu.

In hindsight this makes an awful lot of bread, so if you’re not baking for a dozen people you might want to consider halving the recipe.

This is what you need. If you can’t find buttermilk I supposed you could just use regular milk, but that won’t give you the sourness you need. Try mixing milk and sour yoghurt, buttermilk is runny but thicker than milk.

Warm your buttermilk until it’s as warm as your hand. Yeast needs a temperature of about 37 degrees C to function perfectly. Much colder and your dough will rise too slowly, much warmer and you’ll kill the yeast. Don’t kill the yeast, what did those poor microbes ever do to you? Mix the yeast into the buttermilk.

Add about half of the wheat flour into the buttermilk and stir until you get a gooey porridge. Put this in a warm place for a while. If everything has gone smoothly you should start seeing bubbles in your goo as the yeast does its magic.

While your goo is waiting for bubbles crush your caraway seeds, then mix the sour orange peel and caraway seeds with the syrup and warm it all up. I’m not sure why the recipe wants you to do this, perhaps the heat releases more aromas from the spices, or perhaps it’s to help the yeast somehow. Whatever the case, once your goo is nice and bubbly you add the somewhat cooled syrup mixture and the rest of the flour, both wheat and rye.

Knead your dough thoroughly. At this point I realised that this recipe was originally designed for a much bigger household than mine, and a much stronger set of arms than mine. 1,6 kilos of flour makes a great big batch of dough, so kneading it is quite the workout. Knead until you have a good consistency to your dough – ten minutes minimum, keep at it longer if you can. Set it in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes or so, covered with a teatowel. If you’re making the full-sized batch be sure to use a container that’s big enough, ideally your dough will rise to twice its original size.

Once your dough has risen give it another knead on the table, just a quick one. Form the dough into three loaves and set them to rise in a warm place, again covered with a teatowel. Let them rise for another 45 minutes or so.

If you didn’t kill your poor microbes, you should get this.

The recipe says to bake in “normal oven temperature for 1 hour”. That means about 200 degrees C. You can test to see if your bread is ready by tapping the bottom of a loaf. If it sounds hollow it’s finished. Now go soak your fingers in cold water since you burned them on the hot bread[2].

[2] Pro-tip: a layer of honey works wonders on all the little burns you get while fluttering around in the kitchen.

Pretty bread.

This recipe gives you a toothsome, no-frills bread – typically Finnish in both taste and style.