In our last post, we stepped back into Brian Jacques’s Redwall series with four salad recipes from Mattimeo‘s summer feast scene. Today I think we deserve our just desserts before this sweltering season passes into memory. So with that, I’ve cooked up some Raspberry Seedcakes and Sweetmeadow Custard with Honeyglazed Pears so you can taste the fruits of the season — whether socially distanced, or with friends once the plague subsides.
- Click here to skip to the recipe for Raspberry Seedcakes.
- Click here to skip to the recipe for Sweetmeadow Custard.
Sing for your Seedcakes!
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Seeds & Berries
Mattimeo stood by, awaiting orders, whilst Hugo checked his lists, issuing instructions to his staff of helpers.”Mmmm, let me see, that’s six large raspberry seedcakes. We need four more. Brother Sedge, quickly, take that pan of cream from the flames before it boils over. You can add the powdered nutmeg and whisk it in well.” – Mattimeo
As we’ve seen from previous posts, Brian Jacques includes feasts so lavish in every one of his books that it’s impossible to get through more than two chapters at a time without your mouth watering. The book Mattimeo is no different. Why Jacques did this, though, I find more interesting.
Brian Jacques grew up in Liverpool during World War II. Remembering rationing during and after the war, he would often fantasize about the dishes in his aunt’s Victorian cookbook. So with that, I found that Seedcake was a traditional British dish. Made with caraway seeds and brandy, it evolved from biscuits baked to mark the end of sowing spring wheat.
And then I also discovered that there’s a recipe for this cake in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management for “A Very Good Seedcake.”
I took some liberties by halving the recipe and baking them into sweet muffins. They’re easier to serve alongside a bowl of custard. And it lets me bake fresh raspberries into them without bursting. For more woodland flavor, I also added peppermint extract and substituted juniper-scented gin for the brandy.
How you enjoy your seedcakes is up to you, of course. Though I highly recommend them warmed and served with whipped cream or butter, a drizzle of honey, and just a touch of kosher salt.
Equipment: Oven, cooking spray, 12-cup muffin tin, stand mixer with a paddle attachment, and a spatula.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 cup gin
- 6 oz. fresh raspberries
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Coat the inside of the muffin tin cups with cooking spray and set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar in the stand mixer until fluffy. Beat the eggs in one at a time, scraping the sides with a spatula, then the peppermint extract.
- Mix all the dry ingredients except the raspberries in a separate bowl with a fork. Add half to the stand mixer bowl and blend until incorporated.
- Blend in the gin, then the remaining flour into a smooth batter.
- Fill the cups of the muffin tin with a 1/4 cup of batter per cake. Then dot the top of each with three raspberries.
- Bake in the oven 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Serve cakes with a drizzle of honey and a pinch of salt.
Custard for Mattimeo
“Then there were the cakes, tarts, jellies, and sweets. Raspberry muffins, blueberry scones, redcurrant jelly, Abbot’s cake, fruitcake, iced cake, shortbread biscuits, almond wafers, fresh cream, sweet cream, whipped cream, pouring cream, honeyed cream, Mrs. Churchmouse’s bell tower pudding, Mrs. Bankvole’s six-layer trifle, Cornflower’s gatehouse gateau, Sister Rose’s sweetmeadow custard with honey-glazed pears, Brother Rufus’s wildgrape woodland pie with quince and hazelnut sauce…To name but a few.” – Mattimeo
As I poured about the description above term “sweetmeadow custard” caught my eye. When you have several desserts named after you or your house, a specific name for a dish that’s unrelated to your name indicates some kind of flavor denotation. So what does “sweetmeadow” mean in this case?
I did some research and the herb, meadowsweet, flowers from early summer to late autumn and is common in Britain’s damp woodlands and meadows. The flowers flavored mead and jam with an herbal, almond-like aroma. And the rest of the plant would sweeten rooms all through the middle ages with its scent or stomachs with natural painkiller salicylic acid.
By all means, if you can find some meadowsweet flowers and make an extract, do it. However, for my custard recipe, I decided to use some almond extract and ground thyme to mimic the flavor. You will need something acidic to cut through the sweetness, however. That’s why it is absolutely necessary to serve this custard with lemon zest. A bit of crushed walnut on top will also add some nice crunch to each bite.
Equipment: Oven, microwave, 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate, a large roasting pan, zester, 4-cup measuring cup, teakettle, microwave-safe mixing bowl, and wire whisk.
- 1 Anjou or bartlett pear, cored and sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 and 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup crushed walnuts
- one lemon
- kosher salt
- Toss the sliced pears in a microwave-safe mixing bowl with the lemon juice and microwave on HIGH in 30-second increments until softened (about a minute and a half.)
- Drain the juice and pour in half the honey. Stir to coat, then arrange the pear slices on the bottom of your pie plate. Pour the remaining honey over.
- If you want a pretty pattern on top, place the plate in the freezer for 30 minutes. If you’d rather have pears mixed throughout, you can skip this step.
- Clean out the mixing bowl then use it to collect the eggs and egg yolks. Beat the eggs thoroughly with a wire whisk, then whisk in the nutmeg and thyme. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Pour the milk into the measuring cup and microwave on HIGH in 30-second increments until steaming. Whisk in the sugar and almond extract. Whisk the eggs continuously while drizzling in the hot milk.
- Place the pie plate in the roasting pan and pour the custard over the honey-pear mix. Move the pan to the middle rack of the oven, then pour boiling water into the pan until it is at the same level as the custard.
- Bake in oven 50 minutes to an hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- When cool enough to handle, cover the custard with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Carefully invert the custard onto a serving plate. Garnish the slices with lemon zest, crushed walnut, and a pinch of kosher salt before serving. Do not leave out the garnishes as they are imperative for the flavor balance of this dish.
Your roasting pan should be tall enough to have the water come up to the same level as the custard. Pour the water in the pan after placing it on the rack in the oven to avoid splashback.