Entremets, or “between dishes,” was the French term used for the presentations that happened between
courses at banquets. These presentations could take many forms of entertainment: music, poetry, acted
performances, or spectacular presentations of edible or inedible objects, such as castles, historical figures,
or foods that were either “dressed up” to be visually entertaining or were illusionary in that they appeared
to be something other than what they were. The English term for these entremets was “sotelties” (or
“subtleties”), referring to the ingenuity of the designs.
George Cavendish, in his biography of Cardinal Wolsey, describes a feast at Hampton Court that had multiple subtleties, among which were animals, buildings, people, and a chess set. I chose to create a chess set made of marzipan and gum paste, on a salt dough base.
The chess board was made using gum paste, the chess pieces using marzipan, and the base using salt dough. Although salt dough ingredients (salt, water, and flour) would have been available in period, I was unable to find documentation of its use. The closest I could find was the coffyn pastry used to encase the fillings in pies. It used more ingredients including milk and eggs and seemed to be more perishable and I wanted to make the set as long-lasting as possible. I also used modern food coloring to differentiate the tiles of the board and to gild the salt dough base, representing gilding that would have been done with gold leaf in period. Rose water was typically used in these types of recipes in period, but I did not have the materials available to make any, so plain water was used instead. During the process, i realized that I did not plan for how to attach the tiles to the base, so an edible glue was made using milk, vinegar, baking soda and water. These materials would have been available in period but I was unable to research the possibilities.
I made the gum paste by hand using a bowl, spatula and spoon. A digital scale was used to measure out the ingredients. I used a modern food processor and mixer to make the other materials. I do not have a large enough mortar and pestle to make the amount of almond paste needed and I did not have the amount of time needed to mix the salt dough by hand. The marzipan was molded using silicon molds. In the future, I would like to research making molds from scratch.
Once the marzipan was mixed, it was divided, colored with food coloring, and placed into the molds. The molds were joined together to create 3-D chess pieces. The pieces were then removed from the molds and placed in a dish to allow to dry.
The gum paste was divided, colored with food coloring, rolled out and cut into squares using a straight edge. The squares were allowed to dry, rough edges were sanded off, and the board was dry-fitted to determine the size needed for the salt dough base.
The salt dough was rolled out and cut into a square using a quilters square, placed on a piece of parchment, and baked at 250°F for two hours, flipping at about the halfway mark. The square was checked and needed and additional 30 minutes. The oven was then turned off and the dough was left to sit in the oven overnight to cool and dry out further.
The base was gilded with gold food coloring paint and the gum paste tiles were glued to the base using edible glue. The chess pieces were then placed in the appropriate squares.
Sutton, David C."'Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie': A History of Surprise Stuffings", Wrapped & Stuffed Foods Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, Edited by Mark McWilliams, 2012. Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=MD0QDgAAQBAJ&pg=PT5&lpg=PT5&dq=history+of+surprise+stuffings+sutton&source=bl&ots=DbVDMaGVxL&sig=ACfU3U2UZqs0q2Pkmpv7_RfCKI8k9tt0nA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjIsL7G0f3oAhUDLs0KHW-MCd0Q6AEwAXoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20surprise%20stuffings%20sutton&f=false
Cavendish, George, The Life of Cardinal Wolsey, Edited by Samuel Weller Singer, 2017. Project Gutenberg, www.gutenberg.org/files/54043/54043-h/54043-h.htm#FNanchor_128_128
Sabina Welserin. “If you would make good marzipan.” Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin, Translated by Valoise Armstrong. Medieval Cookery, www.medievalcookery.com/search/display.html?kuchb:22
Dawson, Thomas. The second part of the good hus-wiues iewell Where is to be found most apt and readiest wayes to distill many wholsome and sweet waters. In which likewise is shewed the best maner in preseruing of diuers sorts of fruits, & making of sirrops. With diuers conceits in cookerie with the booke of caruing. 1597. quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A69185.0001.001/1:3.79?rgn=div2;view=fulltext;q1=paste
"How to make a Renaissance Sugar Sculpture." TKSST. thekidshouldseethis.com/post/how-to-make-a-renaissance-sugar-sculpture. April 19, 2020.