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Checky of Leaches

Caryl de Trecesson (Carol Hanson)

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checkerboard of milk gelatins

Source #1:
From The Good Huswifes Jewell by Thomas Dawson, London, 1596 (Falconwood Press, Albany, NY, 1988):

A White Leach
Take a quart of newe milke, and three ounces weight of Isinglasse, halfe a pounde of beaten suger, and stirre them thogether, and let it boile half a quarter of an hower till it be thicke, stirring them all the while: then straine it with three spoonfull of Rosewater, then put it into a platter and let it coole, and cut it in squares. Lay it fair in dishes, and lay golde upon it.

Source #2:
From Delightes for Ladies by Hugh Plat, 1609:

To make Leach
Seeth a pint of Creame, and in the seething put in some dissolved Isinglasse, stirring it till it be very thicke, then take a handful of blanched Almonds, beat them and put them in a dish with your Creame, seasoning them with sugar, and after slice it and dish it.

5 packets of unflavored gelatin powder (about 3-1/2 TB.)
1 quart skim milk (or full cream)
1 1/8 cup white granulated sugar
- either - 2 TB. rosewater for a white leach
- or - 3/4 tsp. ground saffron threads for a yellow leach

Spray a 9" by 13" pan (glass or porcelain is better than metal) with non-stick cooking spray, or lightly oil. Whisk the gelatin powder into the cold milk a little at a time, or heat up the milk first and whisk it in then: either seems to work but both seem to result in a few lumps at first. Keep whisking as you heat the milk and the gelatin lumps will dissolve. Add the sugar, with the saffron if making a yellow leach, and stir till dissolved over medium heat. Bring the mixture just to a simmer (very small bubbles but not boiling). Remove the mixture from the heat, and add the rosewater now if making a white leache. Pour into the pan and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Cut in approximately 1" squares. Two pans (one white and one yellow) will make 2 checker/chessboards of 64 squares each.

This redaction is based on one by Anne-Marie Rousseau of the first source, which can be found in the section on Desserts in Stefan's Florilegium. There is additional information in the Illusion Foods section where one person tried various redactions using actual islinglass instead of gelatin. And a third redaction is of the second source and can be found at The Caer Galen Cooks' Corner. Unlike both the original recipes and the other redactions, I found I preferred using skim milk. When using a milk with fat in it, the cream solids separated and there was a layered effect in the gelatin. The other way around this would be to try the recipe using full cream instead of milk. I also didn't gild the leaches but used saffron for the checkered effect instead. If you'd like directions for that, please see Anne-Marie Rousseau's redaction. The picture is from the dessert board at the Queen's Court event in Carolingia, where it was served with marzipan-stuffed apricots. Adding a marzipan or sugar-paste border to the checkerboard would also be a nice effect.

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last modified on Feb. 10, 2003

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