Æthelmearc Coronet in Sugar Paste


Photo by Karen Mensch DeMichiei

For the coronation dinner of Marcus III and Margerite of Æthelmearc, held at Harvest Raid, Shire of Heronter, I created an edible coronet.  There are several coronet styles available to the monarchs of Æthelmearc, but the byzantine style looked to be the simplest to reproduce, so that is where I started.  My intent is to do the others at some future date…  Master Janos provided me a with few pictures of the coronet in his care.

I then made a card-stock mock up and shaping form.

Next I mixed up a batch of sugar paste:

sugar paste:
1/2 tsp gum tragacanth
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp orange blossom water
1 T  egg white
12 – 16 oz sugar, ground fine

Wet the gum with the lemon juice then add the orange blossom water and egg white.

Rest for several minutes and slowly incorporate the sugar until the desired consistency is reached.

The paste was rolled out and with the mock up was used as a template, the front piece was cut out. I worked the piece flat (smoothed the center areas and textured the boarders,) but when it was lifted to place onto the form the surface crinkled and much of the detail was lost. The form was too flimsy to work on, so if I make this coronet again, I will create a more rigid form to work upon. The sugar was cured for a day in the dehydrator before being removed from the form. The sides were then cut. They slid off the form through the night, but luckily broke along the lines delineating the individual plaques. I now had an eight piece sculpture instead of four… They were placed back on the form and cured for another day before being removed, so that the back piece could be manufactured.


A template was made and the escarbuncles were quickly cut out of sugar paste using an x-acto knife.img_0794

Once all the pieces had cured for a few days it was time to gold & sliver leaf them. Each section was painted with egg white and allowed to dry. Twenty-four sheets of edible gold leaf and six sheets of edible silver leaf later, they were shiny.


I made a very quick plaster mold from wax cabochons. They shifted on me while pouring the plaster, but enough were workable to make the carnelians. After melting out the wax and allowing the form to cool, it was soaked over night in water.  I dissolved 1 cup of granular sugar in 1/2 cup of water, tossed in a small red beet from the garden and a tablespoonful of red sandalwood powder. This was brought to around 200 F then the solids were strained out. The syrup was quickly placed back on the heat,  brought to 300 F,  removed from the heat and the bottom of the pan was placed briefly in cool water. The mold was patted dry and s spoon was the used to drip syrup into the mold. As they cooled the carnelians were popped out and more were cast.


Once cooled the sugar carnelians were glued in place with a thinned-out version of the sugar paste.


This was allowed to rest for a day, then the whole was assembled using the same sugar glue. The coronet was placed in the dehydrator overnight.


Then seams were then covered in gold leaf and the coronet was returned to the dehydrator for another night.


Photo by Karen Mensch DeMichiei


Photo by Rose Ashbaugh


Photo by Phil Martino

I presented the subtlety to Their Majesties about half way through feast.  By the end of the feast Her Majesty had broken the coronet into pieces and distributed them to be eaten by the populace.


Sugar Paste and Pastry Knot Garden for the Vigil Table of Laurencia of Carlisle

Knot garden complete

While discussing the food stuffs for Laurencia’s vigil table with Janos and Astridr, it was decided that the theme would be late period English garden.  I’d been wanting to do a knot garden for some time and this was the perfect impetus to get me off my duff and creating!

Looking for period examples of garden layouts, I started with The Gardener’s Labyrinth by Thomas Hill and while it has many wonderful examples of garden layouts,  my main inspiration came from the restored Elizabethan garden at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, England.[1]  Fun plantings, a fountain and obelisks!

Elizabethan-Garden-Kenilworth-CastleKenilworth Castle Garden

And while It is slightly past our period,  I was also enamored with the knot garden at Moseley Old Hall and patterned some of my tarts on it.

1431733662716-moseley-spring-2016-knottMoseley Old Hall Garden

The knot garden subtlety contained four elements:  garden plantings, gravel pathways, sculptures and a border.  The plantings were made of eight different jelly and custard filled tarts, the pathways of five types of comfits, the fountain and obelisk sculptures of sugar paste and the border of white gingerbread.

IMG_0522Card stock mock-up

Now that I had my concept,  the first step was the sugar paste sculptures because of the long cure time. The fountain is loosely based on the fountain at Kenilworth Castle and is an eight sided basin with an Atlas like figure holding a disc containing the swallow from Laurencia’s personal heraldry, instead of a globe.  I also created four obelisks to place along the main pathways, colored to tie in with the fountain. The recipe for the sugar paste can be found here: Kasteel Nijenrode in Sugar Paste  For this part of the project, I carved three basswood molds. The first (a laurel wreath motif) for the fountain basin, the second for the obelisk peaks,  and the third was of Laurencia’s swallow.

.bonnie heraldry


I printed nine laurel wreath plaques and set them aside to dry for several days.  Eight for the basin and one for play testing.  While they were curing, I free-form sculpted the Atlas figure and set him aside to dry along with his pedestal.  I mixed a batch of sugar paste with ground cochineal and red sanders looking for a rich red.  Instead it made a nice rose color, but not the red, red I was hoping for… and as it aged, it really darkened. (I suspect that my cochineal is getting old, because the comfits that I colored with it were purple, not red and aged to more of a grey.) I printed two of the birds from this and four more from white sugar paste.  The laurel plaques were then held in the proper order with pieces of sugar paste “glued” together with a thinned down version of the sugar paste. Around this time I “glued” the figurine to the pedestal.


Once the basin walls had set up for several days, I rolled out a disk of paste and placed the ring of plaques, upside down on it and cut out the inside and outside of the paste to form the top of the basin.  Then when this had set, I rolled out more paste, placed the ring right side up and cut out the bottom of the basin.  The obelisks were formed of three pieces. I printed eight of the pointy bits and glued them back to back. When they were set I formed their bases out of the same colored batch of paste that the bird disk was printed from and attached the pointed parts.  At this time I secured the figurine to the center of the fountain.  When the red bird disks were dry, the bird was covered in edible silver leaf.  I ground a small bunch of parsley with some egg white, then strained it.  The ninth plaque was used to test this paint to make sure that it did not do anything crazy to the sugar paste.  Once I was satisfied that it would work without issue, I painted the wreaths green with the parsley extract.


laurencia's fountain

For the pathways, I decided to make “gravel” from five different types of comfit:  orange (anise seed, red sandalwood), yellow (coriander seed, saffron), green (caraway seed,  beet greens extract), purple (fennel seed, cochineal), white (grains of paradise.)  Comfits or medieval nerds as a friend called them, are not hard to make, but they are very, very time-consuming. [2]

I placed a large stainless steel wok on the smallest burner of my electric stove top set to the lowest heat. I kept the temperature on the bottom of the wok at the point where I could keep my fingers on it for a few seconds before having to remove them, by periodically sliding the wok onto and off of the burner area.  One ounce of spice was placed in the bottom of the wok and allowed to warm up.  Twelve ounces of sugar was dissolved in 1/2 cup of water and brought to 200 F in a small pot.  This was briefly dipped in a bowl of cold water to halt the heating process.  A teaspoonful of the syrup was poured onto the seeds and the seeds were then worked by hand until all had been wetted. The seeds were then slowly swirled around the wok with the back of my fingers until they dried out.  They were gathered into a pile and another teaspoonful was applied in the same manner.  This process was repeated ad nauseam until all of the syrup was consumed. More syrup was prepared and the process continued until I had used about 1.5 lbs of sugar.  As the comfits grew larger, I could add about a tablespoonful of the syrup at a time, especially with the grains of paradise & coriander without causing issues.  An issue would be a large blob of sugar glued to the bottom of the wok with 1/2 of your work embedded in it.  Yeah, fun…learned this the hard way.  A final batch of syrup was made, but colorings were added this time. For the yellow, a Pinch of saffron was ground with a pinch of sugar and mixed in to the syrup before boiling. For the orange (red sandalwood) and purple (cochineal) the powdered colorant was mixed with hot water then stained through a chinois, before adding it to the syrup before boiling.  The green was made by grinding a small bunch of beet greens with a little water, then straining and adding more water to the quantity desired. If the temperature of the syrup rises about 220 f and/or the bottom of the wok is allowed to get too hot, the comfits will have a rough, bumpy appearance instead of a nice smooth shell of sugar.  That and it will get rather painful to work with the product.  This too I learned the hard way. It should also be noted that if you are making comfits at say 1:00 am and are rather sleep deprived and invert the sugar to water ratio in the syrup, one gets to watch several hours of work dissolve before their very eyes.  Yeah…hard way…

First coat, fifth coat, many coats (in truth, I lost count…)

I had considered making a sugar paste fence for the border, but thought that it would be problematic when it came to actually getting at the tarts to eat them, so I went low profile with white ginger bread rounds.  I had Aethelmearc escarbuncle and Woodland Watch tree molds from a previous adventure.

White Gingerbread[3]
8 oz almonds
4 oz sugar, ground fine
1 T rosewater
1 T ginger, ground
1 t cinnamon

Grind the almonds and sugar together until fine, but stop before the almonds form into butter and release their oil. Blend in the spices and rosewater.

sugar paste:
1/2 tsp gum tragacanth
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp orange blossom water
1 T  egg white
12 – 16 oz sugar, ground fine

Wet the gum with the lemon juice then add the orange blossom water and egg white.

Rest for several minutes and slowly incorporate the sugar until the desired consistency is reached.

Printing of the gingerbread:
Roll marchpane to 1/8 in thickness & cut rounds
Roll sugar paste to 1/8 in thickness &cut into rounds
Layer paste/marchpane/paste
Press into mold brushed with almond oil
Cut into rounds to remove excess.
Work quickly or the sugar paste will dry out and crack.


The escarbuncles were printed first and the trimmings were mixed together then printed in the tree molds.



The original intent was for four custard filled tarts and four jelly filled, but a shopping error on my part resulted in 5 jelly filled and 3 custard filled.  The jellies were apricot, red currant, fig, red raspberry and elderberry.  The custards were strawberry, spinach and white custard. I tried both hot water and cold water crusts.  I think that I will use cold water in the future because the hot water crust was rather elastic and tended to shrink up while trying to manipulate it into the various shapes.

Hot water crust:[4]
2 C flour
pinch of saffron
1 C water
1/2 C butter
2 egg whites

Mix the butter, the saffron and the water together and simmer over a low heat.
Arrange the flour in a bowl so there is a well.
Pour the butter mixture into the well and begin working the dough.
Add two egg whites to the dough.
Knead in a little extra flour if needed but do not over-knead.
I found that I needed about 1 more cup of flour to get a workable consistency and then only after I allowed it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Cold-butter crust for tarts, pies and other things[5]
450 g flour
150 g butter
1 egg, beaten
6 T cold water

Rub the butter into the flour, then work in the egg and water to form a stiff paste, then knead lightly.

The dough was rolled out and the tart bases were cut out using cardboard templates. Next 1/2 inch wide strips of dough were cut and attached to the base with an egg wash. I used lentils as pie weights and baked them at 375 F until lightly golden.

Do to time constraints, I used prepared jellies, except the elderberry (homemade.) Each jelly was piped into the prepared shells and baked for 5 minutes or so, until the jelly softened enough to form a smooth surface.

The custards were as follows:

1/4 lb strawberries
1 egg yolk
1/2 oz breadcrumb
1 T sugar
1/4 oz butter

Grind all together and pipe into tart shells.
Bake for 5 minutes or until set.

33 g baby spinach
100 ml cream
1 t sherry
1 egg yolk
1 t rosewater
17 g sugar.

Boil the spinach in water for 4 minutes, drain.
Process with sherry and rosewater until finely chopped.
Add to pot with cream, egg and sugar.
Stir over low heat until thickened.
Pipe into shells and bake for 5 minutes.
This was rather tasty and I wish that I had made more!

White Custard[8]
100 ml cream
1 egg white, beaten
1 T rosewater
pinch of ginger, mace, nutmeg

Stir the cream, egg, rosewater and spices over a low heat until thickened.
I allowed it to cool & piped it into the tart shell, but it could have been added warm and baked for a few minutes.

Tart Count:
12 strawberry custard
9 apricot jelly
5 red currant jelly
8 elderberry jelly
5 spinach custard
8 fig jam
12 white custard
9 red raspberry

Final plating was preformed on a white tablecloth with the fountain placed in the middle of the provided space.  Next the tarts were arranged and the comfits were poured in the pathways.  The obelisks and borders went down last with the four sugar paste bird rounds at the corners. Continue reading

Sideboard for the Pelican Vigil of Filippo de Sancto Martino


phil sideboard

Clockwise from the left: Fig jam, pane di latte et zuccaro (bread of milk & sugar), biscotti, grapes, cervellate (pork, cheese, saffron sausage), mostardo amabile(grape/apple mustard), green olives, kalamata olives, mozzarella di bufala (water buffalo cheese), persicata (peach, rose jellies), in the center; torte di pere marzapinata (pear & marzipan tart), figs, prosciutto.

I made the pane di Latte et Zuccaro, Biscotti, Cervellate, Mostardo amabile, Persicata and Torte di pere marzapinata using recipes from 16th century Italian sources, translated and redacted by Mistress Helewyse de Birkestad and Wegmans provided the rest.

All recipes pulled from Mistress Helewyse de Birkestad’s feast pages on http://helewyse.medievalcookery.com/ although I made a few alterations here and there…



Persicata (peach sweetmeat)
Peaches, that is the pulp and make in the same what that it is said for Genovese paste, one can make it similarly from the pulp of “appie” or paradise apples, or of other fruit following the same instructions given.

9 lb fresh peaches
3.5 lb sugar plus extra for dusting
I sliced the peaches, removed the stones and simmered slowly with a ¼ cup of water until tender.  Then passed the cooked peaches through a sieve to yield pulp.  Weighed the pulp and added half as much sugar as I had pulp.  In this case 9lb peaches yielded 7lb of peach pulp.  I added the sugar and stirred constantly over low heat. When the temp hit 245 f, it was poured into a parchment lined rectangulat pan to a depth of about 1/4 inch. After cooled, lozenges were cut and dusted with ground sugar.

Translation/redaction by Mistress Helewyse http://www.medievalcookery.com/helewyse/persicata.html

Mostardo amabile

Mostardo amabile – sweet mustard

Per far Mostarda Amabile Cap CCLXXVI, secondo libro Scappi
Piglisi una libra di sapor d’uva, un altra di cotogne cotte in vino & zuccaro, quattro oncie di mele appie cotte in vino, & zuccaro, oncie tre di scorze di melangole condie, oncie due di scorze di limoncelli condii, & meza oncia di noce moscate condite, & pestinosi tutte le conditure con il cotogno, & con le mele appie nel mortaro, & come ogni cosa sarà pesta, si passerà per lo setaccio insime con il sapor d’uva, & si giungeranno con le dette materie tre oncie di senapa purgata, & pir o meno, secondo si vorrà forte, & come sarà passata vi si metterà un poco di sale, & zuccaro fino pesto, meza oncia di cannella pesta, & un quarto di garofani pesti, & non volendo pestare le conditure, battanosi minute, & non havendo poi sapor d’uva, si potrà far senza, pigliando piu cotogne, & mele appie cotte nel modo soprascritto.
Per fare sapore d’uva negra Cap CCLXXIIII
Piglisi l’uva negra, che habbia del sodo, & sia quella che si chaima gropello, cioè cesense, che ha le coste rosse, sughinosi i raspi, & mettanosi a bollire nella cazzuola con foco lento per un’hora, & dapoi piglisi il sugo che tal’uva haverà fatto, & colisi per una stamigna, & per ogni libra di sugo, piglinosi otto oncie di zuccaro fino, & facciasi ribollire in una cazzuola, schiumandolo, & con esso si aggiungera all’ultimo un poco di sale, & cannella intera, & facciasi bollire a foco lento, tanto che pigli la cottura, & come sarà cotto, conservisi in vasi di vetro, o alberelli invetriati.

For the grape sauce:
1 lb red or black grapes
4 oz sugar
1 ” stick cinnamon
For the apples cooked in wine and sugar:
3 apples
1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
For the mustard sauce:
1 oz candied lemon peel
1 small pinch ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch cloves
1 oz mustard seed ground
pinch salt

Take the grapes, break the skins and place in a covered pot on a low heat for one hour.  Strain the grapes through a sieve and then strain the resultant pulpy juice through a jelly bag or cheesecloth.  This should yield 8 oz of grape juice.  Add the sugar, return to the pan and bring to a boil.  As it boils remove any scum that rises to the surface.  Simmer for about 20 minutes until the sauce reaches a consistency that is tacky and thick and is before the jelly stage.
Core the apples, chop roughly and place in a pan with the wine and sugar, simmer until tender.  Remove the apples from the liquid and press through a sieve or other strainer, to remove skin and mash apples.
Blend 8oz grape sauce with 8 oz of apple mush in a blender with the lemon peel and remaining spices including the mustard.  Blend until smooth.  This is a sweet, tangy, fruity mustard, in every way friendly (which is the literal translation of amabile).  Makes enough to fill a 16 oz canning jar, serves 30 for feast.

Translation from Scappi by Mistress Helewyse http://helewyse.medievalcookery.com/Harvest_Days.html


Cervellate – saffron, cheese and spice flavored pork sausages, grilled

Per far mortatelle di carne magra di cigotto di porco domesticon in volto nella rete.  Cap CIII. Secondo libro, Scappi
Piglinosi diece libre della soprascritta carne priva d’ossa, pelle, & nervi, la quale habbia del grasso, & magro, & battasi con li coltelli sopra la tavola, giungendovi otto oncie di sale trito, & sei oncie di finocchio dolce secco, quattro oncie di pepe ammaccato, un’oncia di cannella pesta, meza oncia di garofani pesti, & sia ben mescolta insieme ogni cosa con la mano, & giunganovisi quattro oncie di acqua fredda, & menta, & maiorana battutat con un poco di serpillo, & lascisi riposare in un vaso di terra o di legno per quattro hore in loco fresco, & piglisi la rete d’esso porco ben netta di peli, & mollificata con acqua tepida, & faccianosi di tal compositione le mortatelle con la rete a foggia di tommacelle, & fatte che saranno lascinosi riposare il verno per due giorni in loco asciutto, & poi si cuocano su la graticola, overo nella padella con lo strutto liquefatto.  Si protebbeno anco cuocere le tommacelle nello spedo tramezate con foglie di lauro, & le mortatelle si potrebbeno inspedare per lungo circondata di rame di rosmarino.  Ma in qualunque modo sian cotte, vogliono esser servite calde.  Della detta compositione si potrebbeno empir budelle di porco, che primo fossero state in sale, et piene che fossero il verno si potrebbeno lasciar stare per due giorni, & dapoi si potrebbeno alessare.  Della detta carne magra dapoi che sarà ben battuta si potranno anco far cervellate cn la rete, over in budelle, ponendo per ogni quantita di x. libre della dtta carne una libra et meza di cascio Parmeggiano grattato, et un’oncia & meza di cannella pesta, un’altra oncia & meza di pepe pesto, un’ottava di zafferano, mezo bicchiero di acqua fresca, e tre oncie di sale; et come saràmescolata ogni cosa insieme si faranno le dette cervellate con la rete, overo in budelle, et si cuoceranno nel soprascritto modo; se ne potrebbeno ancho far tommacelle in rete, giungendovi otto oncie di uva passa, et otto rossi d’uova, et le dette tommacelle il verno saranno molto migliori se saranno fatte di due giorni.  Delle mortatelle et altri salami che si fanno della detta carne non ne parlo, percioche non è mai stato mia professione.

Pork Butt – 7.5lb
Grated mozzerella – 4oz
Grated asiago – 4oz
Grated provolone – 40z
Grated Parmesan – 6oz
True cinnamon – 1.5oz (American cinnamon 0.5oz)
Salt – 3 oz
Water 8fl oz infused with 1/8 oz saffron.

Grind the pork and blend with the cheese and spices, stuff casings and grill until cooked.

Translation from Scappi by Mistress Helewyse http://helewyse.medievalcookery.com/Harvest_Days.html

I’ve also made a variation of these with the addition of 8 oz dried barberries and they were well received.


Biscotti – aniseed flavored biscotti

Per fare morselletti, cioè mostaccioli alla Milanese. Cap CXLII.  Sesto libro folio 420.
Piglinosi quindeci uove fresche, & battanosi in una cazzuola, & passnosi per lo setaccio con due libre & mezza di zuccaro fino fatto in polvere, & mezza oncia di anici crudi, overo pitartamo pesto, & un grano o due di muschio fino, & mettanosi con ese libre due & mezza di farina, & battasi ogni cosa per tre quarti d’hora, di modo che venga la pasta come quella delle frittelle, & lascisi riposare per un quarto d’hora, & ribbattasi un’altra volta, poi si habbiano apparecchiati fogli di carta fatti a lucerne onti, overo tortiere altre di sponde con cialde sotto senza essere bagnate di cosa alcuna, & dapoi mettasi essa pasta dentro le lucerne, o tortiere, & non sia d’altezza piu che la grossezza d’un dito, & subito si spolverizzino di zuccaro, & ponganosi nel forno che sia caldo, overo quelle delle tortiere, cuocanosi come le torte, & come tal pasta sarà sgonfiata, & haverà in tutto persa l’humidità, & sarà alquanto sodetta, cioè sia come una focaccia tenera, cavisi della tortiera o lucerna, & subito si taglino con un coltello largo & sottile, a fette larghe due dita, & lunghe a beneplacito, & rimettanosi nel forno con fogli di carta sotto a biscottarsi, rivoltandoli spesso, però il forno non sia tanto caldo come di sopra, & come saranno bene asciutte, cavinosi, & conservinosi perche sono sempre migliori il secondo giorno che il primo, & durrano un mese nella lor perfettione.

5 eggs
12 oz sugar
12 oz all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons anise seed ground finely
pinch salt

The oven was preheated to 360°F and a 9 x 13” non-stick pan was greased with butter.
Eggs were beaten and strained to remove membranes.  Sugar, flour and anise seed was added to the mixture which was beaten with a wooden spoon for ten minutes.  After this time no air had been incorporated into the batter, and it was transferred to a KitchenAid stand mixer and beat at medium speed for 5 minutes.  The batter was then allowed to rest for thirty minutes.  Following resting the biscotti batter was re-beaten for five minutes.   This was then poured into the greased pan and leveled by gently tapping the pan on the counter.  The biscotti were cooked for thirty-five minutes, until the batter came away from the side of the pan and the center was springy and dry to the touch.
The cake was then cut down the middle, resulting in two 4.5” wide pieces, these pieces were then sliced thinly to yield the biscotti.  Biscotti were arranged on baking sheets lined with cooking parchment and returned to the oven that had been reduced in temperature to 210°F.  Every 15 minutes the biscotti were removed from the oven and turned over, the biscotti were cooked for 90 minutes.  After which time the biscotti were moved to a rack, the oven was turned off and the biscotti were returned to the oven overnight to complete drying.

Translation from Scappi by Mistress Helewyse http://helewyse.medievalcookery.com/Harvest_Days.html