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V.122 To prepare a filled twist.

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Scappi, Bartolomeo, Scully, Terence (trans.), The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570): L'arte et prudenza d'un maestro cuoco(Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2008)

In Book 5 of Scappi, there are a number of filled twist recipes. The recipes struck me as being awfully similar to modern pastry twists. We had a picnic coming up, so I decided to trial recipe V #122:

"Make a dough of two pounds of fine flour with six fresh egg yolks, two ounces of rosewater, an ounce of leaven moistened with warm water, four ounces of either fresh butter or rendered fat that does not smell bad, and enough salt. That dough should be kneaded well for half an hour. Make a thin sheet of it, greasing it with either melted butter that is not too hot or with rendered fat. With the pastry wheel, cut the edges one after the other, which are always quite a bit thicker than the rest. Sprinkle the dough with four ounces of sugar and an ounce of cinnamon. Then get a pound of currants that have been brought to a boil in wine, a pound of dates cooked in that wine and cut up small, and a pound of seeded muscatel raisins that have been brought to a boil in wine; combine all those ingredients and mix them with sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Spread that mixture out over the sheet of dough along with a few little gobs of butter. Beginning at the long edge of the dough, roll it up like a wafer cornet, being careful not to break the dough. A twist like that needs only three rolls so it can cook well; it should not be too tight. Grease its surface with melted butter that is not too hot. Begin at one end to roll it up, not too tightly, so it becomes like a snail shell or a maze. Have a tourte pan on hand lined with a rather thick sheet of the same dough greased with melted butter and gently put the twist on it without pushing it down. Bake it in an oven or braise it with a moderate heat, not forgetting to grease it occasionally with melted butter. When it is almost done, sprinkle sugar and rosewater over it. Serve it hot. The tourte pan in which the twists are baked has to be ample and with low sides."

For my first attempt at this, I followed Scully's interpretation of Scappi's measurement for the pound as a modern unit of weight - 16 ounces, or 452g (refer to Scully,T. (trans.), The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570), (Toronto Press, Canada, 2008), Introduction: This translation and commentary, p84).This seemed to produce a good result, so I am happy to follow these measurement guidelines.

Kneading the dough for half an hour seems like a tedious job, but about every five minutes I noticed a subtle textural change, and was therefore worth the effort. I would want to do this a couple more times by hand before I am satisfied that I know what texture I am trying to achieve and produce it with a machine instead. The dough is beautifully smooth and easy to work with, and rolls extremely well.

Scappi calls for all the fruit to be cooked in wine, but mentions each fruit separately as being cooked in wine. Having chopped my dates, I decided to cook these and the currants and raisins together in wine rather than separately. I used about half a bottle of white wine for this. I mixed in a scant half cup of sugar, along with the spices (a decent teaspoon of cinnamon and a half each of cloves and nutmeg), as Scappi's recipes are often overly sweet for a modern palate, and the dried fruit already contained a fair amount of sugar in and of itself.

I have only just realised that I made an error in dealing with the dough: I set aside a small portion to use as the base on the tray for the roll to sit on. I then added to it the small amount I trimmed off the sides. Due to the volume of the fruit, when it came to rolling up the twist I had a little trouble - this was probably due to my reserving of the dough, instead of making more. However, following the recipe does produce a large quantity of filling, and the end result would still be a generous layer over the entirety of the surface of the dough. The dough is not too likely to break during the process (as Scappi warns against), however, as it has a wonderful elasticity. What does create an issue is the amount of liquid butter that ends up coating every surface - the log becomes rather slippery when transferring it to the tray, and would dearly love to slide off the dough base that you've provided and greased for it.

I had expected that through the cooking process, the dough base would remain slightly separate from the main roll, however, the two fused together and became inseparable. I found that the roll needed to sit on a low oven rack while cooking, in order to stop the top from browning too quickly. When sprinkling the roll with sugar and rosewater, it pays to sprinkle the rosewater first or the sugar won't stick (not that this recipe needs any more sugar).

The scroll was supposed to be served hot, but, as it was for a picnic, I took it cold. It is quite literally tooth achingly sweet. The quantity that this makes is easily enough to feed 20 a small but ample piece each - I ended up taking half of the twist home and freezing it, before bringing it out again for the next picnic. The next picnic, taking place just after Christmas, had those of the group that eat fruit mince pies exclaiming that this is better than those. It's good that they like it, as I need to practise making it a little more to consistently get the dough and to improve my twist-rolling ability; although Scappi provides a number of twist recipes so I will probably try these as well.