Friday, 2 January 2015

Isle of Wight Cracknel

Isle of Wight Cracknel finally springs to mind as the distinctively "Isle of Wight cake" I must have been dreaming of, even if Bentley's Miscellany likens it to a "cicatrized mass".
Making a plaster in a hurry, and shrivelling up your last heartshaped bit of white leather, with an over-heated spatula, into a cicatrized mass, something in shape like an Isle of Wight cracknel.
- Bentley's Miscellany, Volume 19, 1846

There are a number of recipes in old books, but not wildly old:
Isle of Wight Cracknels. Sift a quart of the finest dry flour; beat up the yolks of four eggs, with grated nutmeg, powdered loaf sugar, and half a gill of orange-flower or rose water, pour it into the flour, and make a stiff paste. Then mix, and roll in, by degrees, a pound of butter; and when in a soft paste, and rolled out to the thickness of about the third of an inch, cut it into round cracknel shapes, throw them into boiling water, and let them remain in it till they swim on the surface. They must then be taken out, and thrown in cold water to harden; after which, dry them slowly, wash them over with whites of eggs, well beaten; bake on tin plates in an oven brisk enough to make them crisp, but not high coloured.
- The New London Family Cook: Or, Town and Country Housekeeper's Guide (Duncan Macdonald; London: Albion Press : Printed for James Cundee, 1808).
Isle of Wight Cracknels.
This 'peculiar kind of cakes is said to have originated in the Isle of Wight, which still preserves its reputation for them. They are made in several different ways, of which the following is certainly one of the very best.—Sift a quart of the finest dry flour; and beating up the yolks of four eggs, with a little grated nutmeg, some powdered loaf sugar, and half a gill of orange-flower or rose-water, pour it into the flour, and make np a stiff paste. Then mix, and roll in, by slow degrees, a pound of butter; and, when thoroughly united in a soft flexible p.iste, and rolled out to a proper thickness, which is about the third part of an inch, cut it into round cracknel shapes, throw them into boiling water, and let them continue to boil in it till they swim on the surface. They must then be taken out, and plunged in cold water to harden; after which, they are to be slowly dried, washed over with well beaten whites of eggs, and baked on tin plates, in an oven sufficiently brisk to make them crisp, bat not by any means high coloured.
- A Modern System of Domestic Cookery: Arranged on the Most Economical Plan (M. Radcliffe, Manchester: J Gleave, 1823, page 404, Internet Archive amodernsystemdo00radcgoog).
791. — Mix with a quart of flour 1/2 a nutmeg grated, the yolks of 4 eggs beaten, with 4 spoonfuls of rose-water, into a stiff paste, with cold water ; then roll in 1 lb. of butter, and make them into a cracknel shape; put them into a kettle of boiling water, and boil them till they swim ; then take them out and put them into cold water; when hardened, lay them out to dry, and bake them on tin plates.
- Modern Domestic Cookery (by a Lady, London: John Murray, Albermarle Street, 1851, Internet Archive moderndomesticco00lady).
The Isle of Wight Tourist and Companion at Cowes describes:
Passing through the High Street to its northern termination, and then turning either right or left, the visitor will reach that lovely spot the Western Cowes Parade. The passage leading by the watch house, (an establishment in the service of His Majesty's customs,) conducts to the Parade by the Globe Inn, and the Marine Hotel. The other way leads to the same place, by the Bath Road, in which is the Wesleyan Chapel; and “the old established cracknel“ manufactory.”
In a town where “ manufactories” are so uncommon, the board which presents the above inscription has sometimes proved inexplicable to the stranger. It may therefor be proper to observe that the “cracknel " is a kind of biscuit, in the preparation of which a lengthened process is required, and for which the Island is celebrated. It is sweeter, and perhaps, not much less digestible than the famous Abernethyan biscuit itself. The admirers of the taste of the good King George the Third, will perhaps like them the better because he is said to have received a box of them annually from the Island.
- The Isle of Wight Tourist and Companion at Cowes (Philo Vectis, Cowes, R. Moir, 1830)
Cowes appears to be their place of origin, and they're more biscuit (in the American sense) than cake.
Cracknels. The word cracknel signifies simply crack or hard biscuit, and is used to distinguish that class of hard biscuits mixed with eggs, instead of water or milk, and which are boiled or steamed before baking. They are supposed to have originated in Cowes, Isle of Wight, and were first called “cracknel.” Then followed the leaf cracknel, the star cracknel, and the wheel cracknel which latter takes its name from its being made to take a peculiar form by being pressed between two pieces of wood with spokes radiating from their centers like a wheel, but no rim on them; these cracknels were as large as a saucer. Cracknels when first made in this country were called, as they still are, cream crackers, also egg crackers or biscuit. They have a peculiar lightness owing to their composition and manipulation, and are easily digested. A barrel holds only 18 or 20 lbs. of cracknels.
- The Complete Bread, Cake, and Cracker Baker: In Two Parts (Chicago: J. Thompson Gill, Master Confectioner and Baker Publishing Co. 1881).
The term appears in Notes and Queries in 1859.
Cracknells. — Can anyone give the origin of the term of "cracknells," applied to the biscuits peculiar to the Isle of Wight, if not to Cowes itself? - S. K. K.

[The word cracknel, Fr. craquelin, meaning a hard brittle cake, is not peculiar to the Isle of Wight. Kitto says, that "the word nikkuddim, translated cracknels in 1 Kings xiv. 3., doubtless means some kind of small cake or biscuit; and, as the word suggests the idea of something spotted, Harmer fairly enough conjectures that they were some such sort of biscuit, sprinkled with seeds, as are still much used in the East." The cakes of this name were not unknown to Spenser (Shepherd's Calendar, Jan.): "Albee my love be seek with daily suit, His clownish gifts and curtsies I disdain, His kids, his cracknels, and his early fruit." Swift, also, could boast that "I have in store a pint or two of wine, Some cracknels, and the remnant of a chine." - A Town Eclogue, 1710.]- Notes and Queries, 2nd S. VIII. Oct. 8, 1859).
And then there are "Isle of Wight Doughnuts", which sound a deal nicer.
The birthday feast was spread on the top of a low haystack in the barnyard of the farmhouse in which the children and their parents were spending the summer. There was a birthday cake and other good things, — '' Isle of Wight doughnuts," and "Isle of Wight junket." No one in the world has tasted junket as these island people make it; I mean, no one in the big world outside, across the seas. It is a glorified clabber, covered an inch deep with thick yellow cream and scattered with " Hundreds and Thousands." Those delightful little red and blue pellets, so tiny that you cannot count them, do not grow on this side of the ocean, but on the other side they were one of the sweet enchantments of the children of the Long Ago.
- A Child's Recollections of Tennyson (Edith Nicholl Bradley Ellison, New York: EP Dutton and Company, 1906, page 2).
They don't appear to be distinctive to the Isle of Wight, but the style sounds nice:
The “nut” referred to is the “doughnut,” made of light sweetened dough, rolled into a ball, into the centre of centre of which some currants are placed, the doughnut being then boiled in melted lard, till the outside is brown and slightly crisp. Doughnuts are still made in the Island, and are generally spoken of as “Isle of Wight Doughnuts".
- Notes and Queries (Oxford University Press, 12. S. XI., Dec. 30, 1922, page 538).
- Ray

No comments:

Post a Comment