A Tale of Three Apples

Final 3 apple (2)Sometimes you never know where a recipe will lead you. Recently, while making a boiled apple pudding, it occurred to me that there are many recipes that use the exact same ingredients—some type of pastry plus a filling. For example, a Beignet of Red Currant Jam, a Boiled Apple Pudding, and Kickshaw, are all essentially created using the same ingredients. What is different is the way in which they are cooked or baked.

That led to even more pondering. What if I baked or fried this instead of boiled it? Would they be flakier? Heavier? Which one would taste better? Which would be the preferred recipe? I decided to make all three recipes using one standard recipe of puff pastry (see our blog), three apples mixed with sugar and a little spice, and egg to bind them. Here are the results of my culinary experiment.

Boiling: A Boiled Apple Pudding

For this version, I took a large piece of puff pastry (see our blog) and filled it with the apple filling. The pastry was brushed with some beaten egg around the edges, brought together and squeezed shut. It was then placed into a prepared pudding cloth and boiled for an hour and a half. Once it cooled, the pudding was turned out into a dish and a hole was cut in the top to observe the filling.

Frying: Beignets of Red Currant Jam
(albeit apple in this case)


For this version, another piece of the dough was rolled out into a thin sheet. The pastry was then brushed with beaten egg. The apple filling was added in little sections about three inches apart. A second sheet of pastry was placed on top, and sealed by using a pastry jagger. The little pastry packets were then dropped into hot lard and fried until golden brown on both sides.   After removing them from the oil, they were allowed to cool slightly before being covered with confectionery sugar.

Baking: Kickshaws


The pastry was processed in the same fashion as for frying, but instead of dropping the little pastry packets into hot lard, I baked them in our brick oven. The pastry was allowed to bake until it was crisp and lightly golden.

The Consensus

Final 3 apple (2)

Hands down, the fried version was the winner. The baked version was a close second. And the boiled version was a distant third. When asked why people did not care for the boiled version, most of them answered it was because of a boiled “breadiness” they tasted. It’s a flavor most of us are not accustomed to in modern baking. Of course, that didn’t mean it wasn’t tasty—just different.

The Challenge

Why not try this experiment on your own? Instead of using apples you could use jam or jelly or even butter and brown sugar! This would be a great activity to do with a group (Scouts or Church) or with your children. If you do try it, let us know! Enjoy!

Kimberly Costa
Historic Foodways

NOTE: The recipe for the Boiled Apple Pudding will be available in an upcoming blog. So, stay tuned!

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7 Responses to “A Tale of Three Apples”

  1. July 21st, 2015

    Robyn says:

    So the original colonial recipe called for making a puff pastry dough which was then filled and boiled? I’ve always thought the reason to go to all the work to make a puff pastry is to get all the flaky layers, including the crispy outside layers. I don’t image any of that would happen if you boiled the dough, so why did they used a puff pastry dough for this recipe?

    • August 12th, 2015

      Kimberly Costa says:

      Thank you for your question. You are correct, that puff pastry is meant to be light and fluffy, but we used this particular pastry because the original recipe called for puff pastry. I would assume Mr. Carter chose this pastry so that it was indeed lighter than say a cold crust.

      The full recipe will be posted in the next week or so. Thanks for asking!

      With Regards,

      Kimberly Costa
      Apprentice, Historic Foodways
      Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

  2. August 6th, 2015

    John Chaney says:

    Every time I see the word kickshaw I smile. Not being the brightest of individuals, I did not immediately make any connection and realize that is was the English pronunciation of the French quelque chose “a little something……a fancy dish in cookery’(especially a non-native one). “ I’ve made Hannah Glasse’s Kickshaws using gooseberry jam and raspberry preserves since I didn’t have any fresh gooseberries or raspberries. I felt o.k. with that since she said “ or use what you please”. I baked my kickshaws since she gave permission to “either bake or fry them” .

    Also, I figure, if you don’t ask you don’t learn. Would you write about your use of powdered sugar. I had always thought that what we call powdered sugar was a 19th century invention being sugar ground to a powder with an added anti-coagulating agent and the usual 18th century practice was, as is often noted : “throw grated sugar over them”.

    I check History is Served weekly. Thank you for all I’ve learned from you!

  3. August 12th, 2015

    Kimberly Costa says:

    Hello John-

    I am glad you tried making kickshaws. They are indeed very tasty.

    We make powdered sugar in our kitchen by taking what you call granulated sugar and grinding it in a our large mortar until it is as fine as the ‘confectionary’ sugar you get in the grocery store. You are correct in saying modern confectionary sugar does have corn starch in it to keep it from clumping.

    This would make a good subject for our blog! Thanks for sending us down a new path.

    With Regards,

    Kimberly Costa
    Historic Foodways

  4. October 24th, 2015

    John Henry Mejia says:

    How do I make the fried ones?
    Thanks, JH

    • November 5th, 2015

      Historic Foodways says:

      Heat the frying pan and the shortening of your choice on medium high. Place a couple of the Kickshaw’s in the pan but do not over crowd them fry for a few minutes on one side until the pastry is golden brown and then flip them over and fry until the other side is golden brown take them out and drain them or pat them dry.

    • January 11th, 2016

      kcosta says:

      Hello John, please go to our recipe index and look for Beignets of Red Currant Jam. That is the exact recipe I used to make the fried version here, except we used jam. I hope you will enjoy them as much as we do. It’s one of my favorite recipes to make.

      Kimberly Costa
      Historic Foodways

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