The Hitchhiker's Guide to Ancient Cookery

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Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné
Jeff Berry
(Number 24 in the Series, March 2004)

Jumbles, Three Ways

At the February cooking thing, we spent some happy time looking through various Jumbles recipes (with various spellings) and for March I decided to give one a shot. So ...

First, I chose one from Robert May's "The Accomplist Cook." The first edition was published in 1660, my edition works from the 1685 edition. This is slightly out of period, and the book shows it. It has far more detail about measurements and such like than one finds in earlier recipe collections. Still, it is a useful step backwards in time from purely modern works.

The recipe is:
To make Sugar-Cakes or Jambals.
Take two pound of flour, dry it, and season it very fine, and then take a pound of loaf sugar, beat it very fine, and searse it, mingle your flour and sugar very well; then take a pound and a half of sweet butter, wash out the salt and break it into bits into the flour and sugar, then take the yolks of four new laid eggs, four or five spoonfuls of sack, and four spoonfools of cream, beat all these together, put them into the flour, and work it up into paste, make them into what fashion you please, lay them upon papers or plates, and put them into the oven; be careful of them, for a very little thing bakes them.

Hardly a gloss needed here. I made a half recipe with 2 cups of flour, one cup of sugar, three sticks of butter, two egg yolks, two spoonfuls (I used large table spoons, not Tablespoons) of cream and two of sherry since I didn't have sack handy.

"Searce" means to sift or sieve, but my sugar was pretty well granulated so I skipped that step. My butter was unsalted so no washing was neccessary. I wasn't sure what "season it very fine" meant in this context, but believe it simply means to make sure it is a fine flour, which modern flour is.

The oven was at 350 and I put cookie sized dollops of batter onto cookie sheets.

They cooked quickly. Next time I'd be tempted to do one or more of the following: a little less butter, smaller dollops of batter, reduce the oven temp some, or squish the batter down after I put it on the sheet. The reason, of course, is that they were a little squishy in the middle as they browned around the edges, and I'd like the texture a little more consistent.


For Mudthaw, I made a new batch. I used a hair less sherry and made smaller and thinner cookies. We shall see how they turned out!

Well, they turned out better. A little more consistent in texture.

A Second Way

But Coronation was only two weeks away, so I trotted out another, older, recipe.

Gervase Markham, The English Hus-wife, dating to 1615
To make the best jumbles, take the whites of three eggs and beat them well, and take off the veil; then take a little milk and a pound of fine wheat flour and sugar together finely sifted, and a few aniseeds well rubbed and dried; and then work all together as stiff as you can work it, and so make them in what forms you please, and bake them in a soft oven upon white papers.

Using the first recipe as a model, I took about 2 cups of flour and 1 cup of sugar, about a pound in total weight, to 3 egg whites. A little milk turned out to be 1/3 of cup. I started with about 1/6 of a cup but that didn't seem to hold together. 1/3 may have been to much, 1/4 might be better. Then I used somewhere between 1 and 2 teaspoons of aniseseed. I baked them for about 20 minutes at 300 degrees F, which seemed pretty slow to me.

The result was not bad at all. In fact, you have it before you so judge for yourself. (One note - it might be best to grease the cookie sheet, other wise they tend to stick.)

A Third Way

On the next page in Markham there's another jumble recipe.
To make finer jumbles
To make jumbles more fine and curious than the former, and near to the taste of the macaroon; take a pound of sugar, beat it fine; then take as much fine wheat flour and mix them together, then take two whites and one yolk of an egg, half a quarter of a pound of blanched almonds; then beat them very fine all together with half a dish of sweet butter, and a spoonful of rose-water, and so work it with a little cream till it come to a very stiff paste, then roll them forth as you please: and hereto you shall also, if you please, add a few dried aniseeds finely rubbed and strewed into the paste, and also coriander seed.

For this round I took 3 cups of sugar and 4 cups of flour, about a pound of each by weight, mixed them together with two egg whites and one egg yolk. 1/2 cup of slivered almonds was about an eighth of apound, and I ran them through the cuisinart before mixing them in. To that I added a tablespoon of water (I didn't have any rosewater - I do now!) and 1 1/4 sticks of butter. About 3 tablespoons of cream were needed to get it to the right consistency. Then I rolled them into ropes, cut them into lengths a couple of inches long and baked them for a while in a slow oven, about 320F. On some I sprinkled a little coriander and and some some aniseseeds.

These turned out very well. They didn't quite hold their shape as much as I thought they would, so I think next time I'll use less butter.

Addendum for Bellringers

This go-round, I halved each of the recipes above, which entailed making a few modifications and one mistake. For Jumbles #1 I forget to use just egg yolks. For Jumbles #2, 1 and 1/2 egg whites seemed off, so I just used one. For Jumbles #3, 1/2 the number of eggs would be 1 egg white an 1/2 an egg yolk, I just used 1 egg.

Addendum for Kings and Queens Rapier Champions

Back to the orginal recipe, with only a single stick of butter, rather than 1 1/4. I cooked them on the lowest rack of the oven, nearest the gas flame, which was a mistake as the undersides got a little scorched.

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Comments are welcome.
Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné, Jeff Berry,

Copyright Jeff Berry
Originally webbed 17 March 2004
Last modified 20 January 2005