Saturday, April 12, 2014

Portuguese Farts are Honey Tarts

Today, to ensure a dignified tone, we're starting with a quote from Great Literature.
Yesterday, though, we heard the king of farts,
It smelled as sweet as honey tarts,
While it wasn't in the strongest of voice,
It still came on as a powerful noise.

Yes, yes, earlier I promised Portuguese Farts, and as with any recipe with a name like that, by all the Gods I'm going to deliver! This comes from the online transcript of A Book of Cookrye. The last time we made a recipe out of A Book of Cookrye, it was only slightly scary looking and tasted disappointingly normal. Hopefully, today's recipe will be a real gas (rimshot!).

I'd like to note that unlike a lot of my other middle-of-the-night baking escapades, not only did I have friends over, but friends bearing cupcake pans! So Mike, thanks for bringing your mom's pans. After you repeatedly told me not to, I made damn sure not to scratch them so when she finds out you lent them, it won't be from finding new claw marks all over them. And Maria, who cleaned the kitchen when we weren't looking. Seriously, it was like we like a benevolent kitchen spirit- we'd turn around and hey look, the stove's been wiped!

Here's the original:
To make Farts of Portingale*.
Take a quart of life Hony, and set it upon the fire and when it seetheth scum it clean, and then put in a certaine of fine Biskets well serced, and some pouder of Cloves, some Ginger, and powder of sinamon, Annis seeds and some Sugar, and let all these be well stirred upon the fire, til it be as thicke as you thinke needfull, and for the paste for them take Flower as finelye dressed as may be, and a good peece of sweet Butter, and woorke all these same well togither, and not knead it.
*Portingale- the 1500s name for Portugal. Thanks, OED!
I decided after dumping in all that honey that I could leave this out.
I desperately hope that this recipe's name is not a mistype. If the original book calls it Tarts of Portingale, I will be very very sad.

Portuguese Farts
½ c. butter
Flour (sorry, didn't measure)
Pinch salt
2 sleeves graham crackers*
1 (24 oz.) honey bottle
Anise Extract

Heat oven to 350°.
Make the little crusts:
Mix the butter and flour together salt, adding more until you've got a kind of coarse meal that barely holds together when you squeeze it in your hand. Add enough cold water that you can roll it out (some people use iced water, I just take it right from the tap), and then roll it thin.
Tear off pieces of the dough and press them into ungreased cupcake tins- you should end up with 12.
Bake until cooked through and somewhat golden. Take out of the tins- they should fall right out. Set them on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Make the filling:
Pulverize the graham crackers- I just set them on the counter and took a rolling pin to them. Put in a saucepan and add honey to get a sort of thin paste. Add the spices- be very generous with the cinnamon and nutmeg, moderate with the anise, and conservative (but not overly so) with the cloves. Cook it a bit over medium-low heat to soften the crumbs, and add more spices to taste. Pour or spoon into the shells.
Bake until the tops are crispy, but don't leave them in too long.

*Apparently biscuits in the UK are cookies in the US, so I'm figuring it was also true in 1590s England. Also, I'm being shamelessly cheap- or at least as cheap as you can be while dumping a whole bottle of honey into one recipe.
No, you won't use all of it.
Or you can buy premade shells; I was just too cheap curious how it'd taste in the crust the recipe specifies.

I brought this book home to show my mother when I'd printed it, and she was reading it out loud to get past the spellings. I laughed so hard when she got to this one: "...then cast in your dredge and serve it out hot or cold. That one actually sounds good. To make Farts of Portingale. Take a quart of life honey, and... wait a minute, FARTS OF WHAT!?"
Making the crust- I just threw in a stick of butter and guessed at the flour.
This book's really interesting- obviously, given all the heavy spices and such, you can tell this was for those rich enough to afford it.
I deliberately went for that "homemade charm."
Just about all the really fancy recipes have lots of dried fruit, especially ones you'd have to import from who knows where like dates. And everything from cherries to chicken is liberally sugared because- well, have you seen sugar prices of the late 1500s? What better way to show your guests how much richer you presumably are than they than to literally put it down their throats?

I didn't know if this was a promising or ominous beginning.
But honestly, while a lot of things are just shoved into foods to show you can afford them (much like today, where the more expensive the restaurant, the more likely you'll find truffles and lobster in everything from the artisan grilled cheese to the spaghetti sauce), the combinations are actually really good a lot of the time. Okay, the fresh grapes in the chicken pie I did once (I may make it again, but I'm trying the stuffed fish first) were kind of strange, but in a weird way they actually worked.
It's ominous. We have gritty sludge.
 In the 1500s, showing off your grocery budget to guests apparently meant sugar, rose water, lots of seasonings (usually cinnamon, mace, cloves, ginger, and black pepper), and dried fruits (preferably imported from really far off, like dates).
Enough time on the stove and it actually got really smooth.
And I'm not kidding about sugar in everything. Just about all the meat and most of the vegetables have a lot of sugar stirred in and then dumped-- er, cast on top. Did all those Lord and Lady Whoevers have diabetes? Have their descendants built up an immunity to it? I'll have to look up UK diabetes stats when I'm bored enough.
Y'know, it honestly doesn't look so bad.
Portuguese Farts is actually a bit of an odd recipe for A Book of Cookrye- it's a dessert sweetened with then-cheaper honey (beehives cost a bit less than a sugarcane field and refinery). Also, unlike nearly every other recipe including a lot of the fish ones, there's no rose water. I wonder if this was meant to be a family recipe- you may make the Cherries Baked in Confection when you're entertaining, but if it's just your husband and kids it's farts or nothing.
Surprisingly fluffy farts.
These smelled really good baking. And I'd like to announce a first on A Book of Cookrye: We let them cool completely before eating them! (They were still kind of liquidy in the middle, and no one wants to scald their tongue on hot farts). We set them outside to cool, and since it was a nice night, just sat out on the picnic table and talked as we waited for them to cool. Since it was kind of stuffy, we ate them outside as well- leading me to ask whoever I saw coming in the front door "Honey tart?" (which, considering it, sounds like what some stupidly saccharine couple might use as a term of endearment). I think it says a lot about how often I'm making desserts in the middle of the night that no one thought anything of seeing some people at the table by the door randomly offering desserts around midnight.
Other things that are really satisfying at midnight: Cooked pie crust scraps.

And these were delicious! I baked them a bit too long thinking they were supposed to get completely set, but the flavor was really good and oddly like pumpkin bread. Fortunately, the insides were still soft even though the tops were kind of crunchy due to an inability to realize they were ready to take out of the oven.
There should have been more gooey center, but I was just guessing at when to take them out.

The crust itself was very plain, which went well with the very sweet and flavorful filling. I think it was actually better for me not buying those tartlet shells that are pretty much pie crust-shaped cookies. Mike suggested, and I think I will do this next time, adding nuts into this.

Yes, the only reason I made this was because it's called farts (And who wouldn't at least look twice over a recipe like that?). But it turned out good enough to make again.



  1. I may experiment with different biscuits, not that Graham crackers sound bad at all. Almond cookies? Shortbread?

    1. Almond cookies sound like they'd be really good, actually!