And so begins my grand experiment where I follow recipes that are at least one hundred years old. Although I have started several Dickens novels in the past, I've never finished any of them. I've tholed through Stendhal, I love Dostotevsky and Gogol, I've even put a significant dent in Remembrances of Things Past, but Dickens... nope, nothing. So when I decided to start this project, I thought I'd give him a second chance and cook one of his recipes out of his magazine, Household Words (1881).
Rather than bite off more than I can chew, (Ha) I thought I'd start small and try out his recipe for Cheese Straws. The instructions looked simple enough.
Cheese, egg, and flour
Things quickly took a confusing turn when I "Mixed into a paste with the yolk of an egg."
This is not a paste
So I added another yolk. No paste. And another yolk. No paste. And then I thought, perhaps Mr. Dickens or his readership would read those instructions and know to add a bit of liquid? Maybe that would be so common, it wouldn't have to be explicitly written into the instructions? So I added about a quarter cup of milk. The dough was very sticky, and I didn't chill it because I was still determined to follow the instructions to the best of my ability.
Rolled out, cut, and twisted
"Bake in a moderate oven until crisp..." I started at 325. After 20 minutes, I got bored and cranked it to 400. "... but they must not be the least brown." Whoops.
"Serve cold, piled tastefully on a glass dish."
And done. They taste okay, but more crumbly than crisp. I wouldn't serve these to quests, but I admit I keep munching on them. That speaks more to my laziness than Mr. Dickens' recipe.
On a scale of 1 to 5, here's how Charlie's Cheese Straws rate-
1 Little Dorrit for cooking instructions
2 Nicholas Nickelbys for taste
A total score of 1.5 Bleak Houses
Luckily, I have a back up plan for dinner.
Salmon I smoked, raspberries from the yard, and Akvavit from the booze store.