Thursday, 22 December 2016

November History Bakers: Lemony Biscuits

Ever since History Bakers was restarted two years ago, I’ve been fascinated by the oldest recipes in our collections. The challenge of deciphering, interpreting and then trying to follow these centuries’ old recipes has been exciting, but also a little frustrating!

This month's bake comes from a recipe book found within the Sykes Family papers and dates from the 17th century [U DDSY3/10/6].

Recipe and ingredients...

To make lemmon bisketts
To 2 pound of almonds blancht and beaten very fine with a litell orange flower watter putt the juice of one large lemmon and the pill of 3 beat very fine with the white of an egg beaten to a high froth then take 2 pound of sugar well dryd then strew it into the almonds just before you bake then squint it upon papers and bake then in an oven heated for manchets.

This time I thought I had chosen a fairly simple biscuit recipe and being an avid watcher of the Great British Bake Off, assumed I had the skills to follow the recipe without any major problems. This was a bit of a mistake...

I managed to buy all the ingredients, even the orange flower water was easier to find than I thought, but once home, I realised there were not enough ground almonds! Instead of waiting and buying more, I decided it would be fine and chose to wing it. Over-confidence is very uncharacteristic of me but I was still labouring under the impression it would be fairly simple. As such, I ended up with only 300g of ground almonds (not 2 lbs) and 300g of sugar.

Rolling out the dough...


As instructed by the recipe, I weighed out the almonds and put them to one side whilst I beat the lemon juice (1 lemon), lemon peel (1.5 lemons) and the egg white to as high a froth as I could manage with a manual whisk (I was attempting to be as historically accurate as possible). I then weighed out the sugar and mixed all the ingredients together. At this point, I realised that not only was the mixture very bitty (even finely ground almonds are not as smooth as flour) but it wasn’t sticking together to form a dough, and I had forgotten the orange flower water! Consequently, another half lemon was squeezed into the mixture, and lo and behold, the mixture became too sticky! Over-confidence strikes again! With no almonds left to try to reduce the stickiness, I gave in and got my plain flour out. A very liberal amount of dusting later, the dough was just about firm enough to roll out and cut into shapes.

Before the bake...

Into the oven...

As with all old recipes, there was no indication as to oven temperature or cooking time. To be on the safe side, I opted for 180C for 10 minutes. I then did a very good impression of Great British Bake Off contestants by staring into the oven for the full 10 minutes! By the 10 minute mark, the biscuits were going golden brown/slightly burnt on the outside but had remained fairly soft in the middle. Nervous of leaving them in too long, as they could end up entirely burnt, I took them out and let them cool down. In the end, the biscuits have turned out quite reasonably, with a crispy outside and soft chewy centre, which seems to have gone down pretty well with the taste testers at Hull History Centre.

The finished bake!

So, with a last note of over-confidence before returning to my normal self, it turns out you can practically ignore a recipe and still end up with something reasonably edible!

Colleagues comments:

Sarah - Crispy, chewy and very lemony. Lovely!
Caoimhe - Yummy, very lemony and chewy, fab after taste.
Elaine - Lovely lemony taste, quite chewy!
Laura - Great biscuits, delicious. Love the combination of crunchy edges and slightly chewy middle. Nice and lemony.
Elspeth - Great mix of texture, crunchy and chewy! Lovely lemon zesty taste!
Claire - Deliciously lemony! Please make more!
Christine - Agree with all the other comments. Delicious!
Tom - Nice lemony flavour, both crunchy and chewy.
Francisco - Really nice!!
Neil - Crispy and chewy. Loved them!

Verity Minniti, Archives Assistant

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

3D4ever Conference

I had the chance to attend the 3D4ever Conference event last week, a joint event by the Digital Preservation Coalition and Wellcome Library to encourage cultural heritage professionals to understand and undertake 3D scanning and its challenges.

Photometry workshop
I didn’t have too much experience in photometry and 3D imaging but I highly recommend it. It was amazing to see the immense range of ideas and projects discussed by the speakers and this made me realise how 3D imaging technology advancements have opened up so many opportunities for museums and the heritage sector. As professionals, we must study and promote this evolving technology because it brings exciting opportunities to research and also to engage in new ways with our audiences.

William Kilbride, Executive Director
of the Digital Preservation Coalition
I was inspired by the workshops and talks, and during the day I was developing ideas in my mind which I could take back to my own workplace and utilise in future projects. I think the key message I took home, which all the speakers touched on, was the challenges of creating, sharing and preserving 3D data. I found the whole day very productive, and especially the workshop about photometry given by Sophie Dixon and Edward Silverton which showed us a brilliant approach of how to set up a studio with the minimum amount of equipment necessary to complete the full 3D imaging process.

For me, one of the most striking statements of the conference came from Stuart Jeffrey from Glasgow School of Art, who said, ‘we need to have open access to data and share those experiences but it is important to find a balance between full access and low access.’

Stuart Jeffrey Research Fellow in International Heritage Visualisation at 
the School of Simulation and Visualisation of the Glasgow School of Art
Another key speaker was Helen Hardy, Digital Collections Programme Manager at Natural History Museum. Helen spoke brilliantly about the importance of data preservation and brought to the audience the challenge of joining up natural history data from around the globe.

For example, it’s important for archaeologists to share their findings. Anthony Corns technology Manager at The Discovery Programme showed us his 3D models of Ireland's iconic sites and objects.

After this amazing presentation, I realised the importance of this new technology in the study of material remains and how difficult it was few years ago to share these objects, until the arrival of new visual platforms like Sketchfab which gives instant access of the 3D models, creating a new experience for the public and allows archaeologists to compare objects instantly.

I can summarise the day with a good remark from one presentation: ‘Be as liberal as possible with 3D data, as great things can be done with it. Otherwise it'll go stale.’

You can find more information related to the conference through the 3D4ever hashtag 

Francisco Castanon
Transforming Archives trainee

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Fictional Hull and Hull in Fiction: Part 2

Welcome back to the second part of our LovetoRead blog. In the first part we showcased some of the bigger names to be found within our fiction collections. In part 2 we are going to take a thematic approach to delve a bit further and show off some hidden gems from our less well known authors...

Morality and Justice…
Dickens was not unique in using fiction as a vehicle to illustrate social injustices. An 1852 novel by Francis Ross, entitled ‘Edward Charlton: or life behind the counter. A tale illustrative of the drapery trade and the evils of the late hour system’, is a cautionary tale full of Victorian ideals of morality. Such moral tales were often given as Sunday School prizes, and were designed to illustrate the evils of drink and other vices. Another example of this can be seen in ‘The Struggles of Stephen Stedfast’ written by the Rev. George Shaw.

Some of our contemporary authors writing stories based in the city are very popular and, amongst these, crime novelists rank high on the list. Authors such as Nick Quantrill and David Mark are well known, both in the city and nationally. Both have created a central character who investigates a series of crimes which happen in and around the darker side of the city. If you like this genre, you should watch out for events involving Nick Quantrill, as he not only writes books but has participated in reading events at both the History Centre and Hull Central Library.

Historical Mystery…
If you like your crime to be mixed with history then Cassandra Clark might be for you. She has written a series of medieval mysteries inspired by Meaux Abbey. Her novels feature the Meaux Abbey abbess as detective and the first book, ‘Hangman Blind’ begins at Meaux before moving to York. Once you’ve read one, you might just have to read them all…

Family Sagas…
Family sagas are very popular with our regular users. The Second World War is brought to life in ‘Ada’s Terrace’ by Margaret King. The novel describes itself as ‘Hull: love and romance in wartime’, and is about the docking community and the difficulties of life during the bombing.

Two stories for the price of one…
If you enjoy stories featuring a challenge, Louise Beech’s ‘How to be Brave’ might be for you. This novel tells two stories; that of Colin, a merchant seaman during World War II who is adrift in a lifeboat with some of his shipmates, and  that of his great granddaughter aged 10, who is diagnosed with diabetes. This part of the story is set in the present day and as the family struggles to cope the story of Great Grandad Colin is told until both stories blend together to give an impression of ‘family’.

We hope this has piqued your interest enough to want to find out more. So if you didn't last time, go explore our titles for yourself! You can find them by searching the History Centre Catalogue under the reference L.823. And happy reading!

Elaine Moll, Librarian and Archivist