Progress Update – Scappi

Alessandra di Riario of Drachenwald sends in an update on her Scappi challenge:

I have  chosen for my recipe Scappis fruit filled bread  from Book V of his complete works.  Here below I present my suggested methodology before completing the dish, which has a preparation time for an ingredient I have chosen to use of 10 plus days.


 Scappi’s recipe uses sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves  added to red wine and dried fruit cooked in it until soft. These ingredients are added to dough made from flour eggs, rosewater, butter and salt.

Looking at dough types in period, I intend used a sourdough with rising agent combined from alcohol and honey, which was a common in period technique. I intend to use fine white flour as this is in period a high end bread,  as per for example a manchet loaf of the kind served to nobility.

The crystallised fruit which will have already been prepared in  honey will have been added at this point. I am here also conducting an experiment to see if the added honey will cause the dough to rise slightly as I have not used a traditional sourdough.  Finally, after rising, I will have shaped the bread like traditional breads as presented in contemporary art of the period.

The fruit

 In Italy in period, crystallised fruit was sometimes a dish of conspicious consumption and used for display in feasts in which there was a political and social element. Multiple dishes of crystallised fruit and items made from sugar for example, formed the first course of a multi-course banquet served  for Eleanora of Aragon, wife to the Duke of Ferrara , and arranged by Cardinal Pietro Riario[1].

Crystallised fruit is also a popular dish throughout the Mediterranean in period. I normally use this recipe from the 15th century Libro del Couco, redacted by Barbara Santich.  The original recipe is as follows, for orange peel, “Ranciata”.[2]

Orange peel is left to soften in water for 15 (“miti a mole per 15 Zorni” ) days then dried for 3 days, sugared for 3 ( “lasale sugari per tri zorni”, “poy lo miti in lo mele che to fa bolire per tri zorni, poi la fa bolire e poy cambio lomele per altro e miti le spezie “ three days in the honey it will be boiled in which is changed part way through boiling and spices added.

My redactions are

– time period for the soaking of the fruit, which I have reduced for reasons of time  for the challenge to 3 days and also per Santich’s redaction which is that 15 days seems a long time for drying unless the oranges used were bitter.[3]

– Spices; I will add powder douce in the form of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger reflecting the spices used in the bread. So that the spices do not overpower I will correspondingly underused the amount of spice for the bread.

– I will exclude rosewater for reasons of personal taste and because I feel it may conflict with the citrus fruit chosen.

– Gilding the bread as a final touch using modern ingredients and food colouring with the intention of it being a feast dish.

This gives a total preparation time for the dish of circa 10 days, including a day for the fruit to dry after boiling in honey and for subsequent preparation of the bread..

Otherwise I will be following the recipe recorded in Santich exactly. The fruit will be soaked for 3 days dried for three days,  sugared for 3, honeyed for 3, boiled and left to air dry. Depending on availability of fruit it may be oranges or lemons or a combination thereof

As a modern aside, I will use some of the leftover fruit for my own Christmas Cake which I try to prepare at this time each year, to my grand maternal mother’s recipe.

[1]Gage, John, Life in Italy in the time of the Medici, Batsford, London, 1968 pp140-141

[2]Santich,Barbara, The Original Mediterranean Cuisine, Wakefield Press, 1992,p172

[3]Santich, ibid, p172.

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