Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Mrs Beeton

Mrs Beeton – Bread, Biscuits and Pies

Bread Cutter, featured in Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 Edition.

Continuing with my Mrs Beeton and Great British Bake Off  inspired postings,  I have chosen some of Mrs B’s delicious recipes for bread, biscuits and pies.  Autumn is just around the corner and with the evenings drawing in, there is no better time than now to take to the kitchen for a home-cooking bakeathon.

Illustration showing different types of bread, Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 Edition


  • Mrs B’s advice on how to choose flour;
  • Home-made bread;
  • Rice bread;

Mrs B’s advice on choosing flour

‘The quality of wheat varies much with the weather of each season at home, and also with the weather and soil in countries that differ more from each other than our wettest season from our driest…… Good flour is dry and does not lose more than 12 per cent. in weight when heated in an oven.  If the flour is remarkably good and dry, a greater weight of water is taken up, and consequently a larger number of loaves are made from the same amount of flour.  Cloths are sometimes thrown over bread hot out of the oven to retain the steam and prevent the loaves from becoming dry….. The finest flour procurable in this country is “Vienna” or “Hungarian”, as it is more generally called, and it is always the dearest flour on the market.’ (Chapter 46, p. 1399, 1915 edition)


25g = 1oz      100g = 4oz       225g = 1/2 lb     450g = 1lb   1 Peck = 8.81 litres   1 quart = 2 pints

Home-made bread

Ingredients – 1 peck of flour, 2 ozs of compressed or distillery yeast, 1 1/2 ozs of salt, 3 quarts of water.

Method – ‘Turn the flour into a clean pan, and make a “bay”, or hole in the centre.  Let the water be about 80 degrees Fahr., or blood-warm, so it feels neither hotter nor colder than the hand when placed in the water.  Put the water into a bowl, add the yeast and salt, and stir up well with the hand till dissolved, then turn it into the bay, and make up into rather a stiff dough; knead well, and leave to dry, cover over with a clean cloth, and set the pan of dough in a warm place to prove for at least 2 hours, then give it another good kneading and drying over, and leave it for another hour; turn out onto the board, divide into suitable-sized pieces, make into loaves, prove and bake.’

Rice bread

Ingredients – 1 lb of rice, 7 lbs of flour, 1 oz of salt, 1 1/2 ozs of compressed yeast, water.

Method – ‘Wash the rice in cold water, put it in a clean saucepan, cover with water, set over the fire, and cook until tender.  Turn the flour into a clean pan, make a hole in the centre, put in the boiled rice, add 1 quart of cold water, and stir-up gently without mixing in much flour; test the heat, and if cold enough, add the yeast, dissolved in another pint of water, stirring it into the rice with another handful of flour.  Cover over with a clean cloth, and let it stand for 2 hours, then add the salt in fine powder, and make into dough, using any more water that may be necessary for the purpose.  Cover over, and leave the dough to rise, mould up, prove, then bake in a moderate oven.  The rice can be boiled in milk if preferred.’

Different types of biscuit illustration from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 Edition.
  • Arrowroot biscuits or drops;
  • Cocoanut gems;
  • Ginger biscuits;
  • Lemon biscuits.

Arrowroot biscuits or drops

Ingredients – 1/2 lb of butter, 6 eggs, 1/2 lb of flour, 6 ozs of arrowroot, 1/2 lb of castor sugar.

Method – ‘Beat the butter to a cream; whisk the eggs to a stiff froth, add them gradually to the butter, stir in the sugar a little at a time, and beat the mixture well.  Smooth down all the lumps from the arrowroot and sift it with the flour and then add to the other ingredients.  Mix all well together, drop the dough on a buttered tin in pieces the size of a shilling, and bake the biscuits for about a 1/4 of an hour in a slow oven.  Sufficient to make from 3 to 4 dozen biscuits.’

Cocoanut biscuits

Ingredients –  1 lb of grated cocoanut, 2 lbs of sugar, 5 eggs, 2 teacupfuls of flour.

Method – ‘Rasp a good fresh cocoanut on a grater, letting none of the rind fall.  Spread the cocoanut thus grated on a dish, and let stand in some cool dry place 2 days to dry gradually, or desiccated cocoanut can be used in the proportions given.  Add to it double its weight of powdered and sifted loaf sugar, the whites of 5 eggs whisked to a stiff froth, and 1 teacupful of flour to every pound of sugar.  Drop the mixture on a baking-tin 1 spoonful at a time, like rock cakes, or into proper drop-cake tins.  Bake in a very gentle oven for about 20 minutes; move the biscuits out of the tins while warm, and when cold, store them in a tin container.  Sufficient for 3, 1/2 lbs of biscuits.’

Ginger biscuits

Ingredients – 1 lb of flour, 1/2 lb of fresh butter, 1/2 lb of castor sugar, 3/4 of an oz of ground ginger, 2 eggs.

Method – ‘Rub the butter and ginger into the flour on the board, make a “bay” or hold, break in the eggs, and wet-up into a nice workable paste, using a little milk if necessary.  Roll down in thin sheets,  and cut out with a plain round cutter, set them on to a greased baking-sheet, and bake in a cool oven.  Sufficient to make 4 dozen biscuits.  Seasonable in winter.’

Lemon biscuits

Ingredients –   1 1/4 lbs of flour, 3/4 of a lb of castor sugar, 6 ozs of fresh butter, 4 eggs, the grated rind of a lemon, 2 dessertspoonfuls of lemon-juice.

Method – ‘Rub the butter into the flour, stir in the castor sugar and very finely minced lemon-peel, and when these ingredients are thoroughly mixed, add the eggs, which should be previously well whisked, and the lemon-juice.  Beat the mixture well for 1 or 2 minutes, then drop it from a spoon on to a buttered tin, about 2 inches apart, as the biscuits will spread when they get warm; place the tin in the oven, and bake the biscuits a pale brown for 15 to 20 minutes.  Sufficient for 3 or 4 dozen biscuits.’

Raised Game Pie with Aspec Jelly, Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1915 Edition.
  • How to make rough puff pastry (paste);
  • Raised game pie;
  • Pigeon pie;
  • Beefsteak and potato pie.

How to make rough puff pastry (paste)

Ingredients – 8 ozs of flour, 6 ozs of butter (or equal quantities of butter and lard), 1/2 a teaspoonful of lemon-juice, salt, about 1/4 of a pint of water.

Method – ‘Sieve the flour on to a pasteboard, divide the butter into pieces about the size of small walnut and mix them lightly with the flour.  Make a well in the centre, put in the lemon-juice, salt, and 1 tablespoonful of water, mix lightly, keeping the pieces of butter intact, and add water gradually until a moderately stiff paste is formed.  Roll into a long strip, fold it equally in 3, turn it round so as to have the folded edges to the right and left, and roll out as before.  Repeat until the paste has been rolled out 4 times, then use; or, if convenient, let it remain for 1 hour in a cool place before being used.  Sufficient for 1 pie of average size.’

Raised game pie

Ingredients – game of any kind, equal quantities of finely chopped veal and pork, veal forcemeat, paste (see previous posting for Pork Pie recipe for instructions on how to make this paste), coarsely chopped truffle, stock that will jelly when cold (preferably game stock), egg, salt and pepper.

Method – ‘Mix the veal and ham together, season liberally with salt and pepper, and add 1 or 2 tablespoonfuls of chopped truffle.  Divide the birds into neat joints, and remove all bones except those which are deeply imbedded in the flesh and difficult to detach.  Make and mould the paste as described in the recipe for pork pie, and line the bottom and sides with veal forcemeat.  Put in the prepared game, season each layer with salt and pepper, and intersperse small pieces of the meat force, taking care to leave spaces to be afterwards filled with stock.  Pile the game high in the centre, cover with a thin layer of veal force, put on the cover, then follow the directions given for preparing, baking and finishing the pork pie.’

Pigeon Pie

Ingredients – 2 or 3 pigeons, 1 lb of rump steak, 1/4 of a lb of ham or lean bacon, 3/4 of a pint of good stock, 2 hard-boiled eggs, the yolk of 1 egg, puff paste, salt and pepper.

Method – ‘Cut each pigeon into 4 or more pieces, according to their size; cut the beef into small thin slices, the ham into strips, and the eggs into sections or slices.  Put these ingredients into a pie-dish in layers, season well, and pour in stock to 3/4 fill the dish.  Put on the cover, moisten and press the edges together, make a hole in the centre of the top, decorate with leaves, brush over with yolk of egg, bake in quick oven until the paste is risen and set, then cook at a lower temperature for about 1 hour.  Have ready a few of the pigeons’ feet,  scalded and the toes cut off, also the remainder of the stock.  Before serving, pour in the stock through the hole in the centre of the pie, and replace the pastry ornament with the feet, fixing them in a nearly upright position.  The pie may be served either hot or cold; if the latter, the stock must form a jelly when cold.  Sufficient for 6 to 8 persons.’

Beefsteak and potato pie

Ingredients –  1 1/2lb of beefsteak, potatoes to fill the dish, 1 small onion parboiled and finely chopped, 1 tablespoonful of flour, 1 teaspoonful of salt, 1/2 a teaspoonful of pepper, short crust paste.

Method – ‘Peel the potatoes, and cut them into thick slices.  Cut the meat into thin slices, about 2 inches long and an inch wide.  Mix the flour, salt and pepper together on a plate, dip the slices of meat in the mixture, and roll them up tightly.  Line the bottom of the pie-dish with slices of potato, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with rolls of meat, and add a little onion, but use it very sparingly unless the flavour is much liked.  Repeat until the dish is full, add boiling water to 3/4 fill the dish, and cover with short crust paste.  Bake for 2 hours in a moderately hot oven, and, before serving, pour a little hot beef gravy, or hot water seasoned with salt and pepper, through the hole in the top.’

I thought I would finish with a picture of my husband’s version of Mrs Beeton’s beefsteak and potato pie.  He used puff pastry instead of short crust for the cover and a cat motif as his decoration of choice – nicer to look at than embedded, scalded pigeons’ feet.  I would like to think that the cat has had the last laugh and polished off the pigeon!

My husband's version of Mrs B's beefsteak and potato pie.

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