Saturday, December 6, 2014


The echaudé was one of the most well-known medieval pastries. The word means “scalded” and the pastry is sometimes called a “scalded pastry” in English; it has also been described as “poached” and even as a dumpling. But the French term is most typically used even in English. Though first mentioned in the Middle Ages, the pastry was still common in the nineteenth century and can still be found (if less commonly) today.

Early history

The first mention of the pastry comes from 1202 in a reference to “breads called eschaudés” (panes qui  Eschaudati dicuntur). (At this point, “pastry” was still not yet a distinct category, separate from bread.) The same text also references wafers (oblatas) and these two may be the earliest pastries (or at least sweet baked goods) mentioned in French history. Note that the Latin here is an adaptation of the French word, showing that the latter was already established at this point. What is more, the fact that the reference comes so early in the thirteenth century indicates that the pastry must have existed at least at the end of the twelfth.

Le Grand d'Aussy hypothesizes that the medieval pastry was much larger than that of his own time, based on a 1231 reference to a widow who surrendered certain rights in return for a large loaf (miche) and an echaudé (unum eschaudetum) on feast days. It does make sense that this would have been fairly large – one small pastry each feast day seems a poor recompense. But the pastry may also have already existed in two sizes. In his 1268 Livre de Metiers, Boileau does not yet mention pastry-chefs, but he does refer to echaudés given to the officials charged with tasting wine. These include small ones specifically intended for the tasting; by implication the others were larger.

In 1379, echaudés were again listed along with wafers, this time as part of an elegant meal (wafers were one of the most common desserts of the time); no other pastry is mentioned. In 1451, they were given out after High Mass in one locality. It is clear from all these references that echaudés were considered a special treat.

They seem to have become more ordinary by the eighteenth century, when they were often served with beer. One recipe for a “snow” (an early quasi-ice cream) includes bits of biscuits and echaudés, in something of a precursor to cookie dough ice cream. In the nineteenth century, Dumas (the father) prefaced his recipe for them by saying they were a “sort of unsugared cake made more for birds and children than adults.” (He apparently meant this literally; some echaudés are sold today specifically for birds.)


No record exists of the shape or even the making of the earliest echaudés. Eighteenth century images, both of an echaudé seller and, in the Encyclopédie, of the pastries being made, show shapeless forms resembling potatoes, or dumplings, and it is easy to imagine that a lump of pastry dipped in hot water would have yielded something similar. But their shape is more commonly described in other terms.

As early as 1584, the Latin term for the pastry was crustulum bicorne; that is, “bicorn pastry” (very literally, “crust”). The bicorne most familiar today is Napoleon's hat and it may be that this referred to a similar shape. But the pastry has also been described as heart-shaped, and at least one writer believes that “bicorn” refers to this.

The most common shape, however, seems to have been “tricorn”; that is, roughly, that of a tricorne hat. Cotgrave, in his 1611 French-English dictionary, refers to it both as a “Symnell” - that is, a fine loaf - “shaped like a Hart” and as a “three-cornered Symnell”. A medical text from 1668, explaining how to fold a towel, says that it should be three-sided “like an echaudé”. Similar references are found later, and in fact modern versions of the pastry are also in this shape.

As it happens, this is also the shape of another medieval pastry, the talmouse. The talmouse however is filled with cheese, which the three rolled sides help contain. Why the echaudé, which is not filled, has been made this way is uncertain.


This is not one of the rare pastries for which a medieval recipe has survived. The first echaudé recipe is from La Varenne in 1688, after which, through the eighteenth and nineteenth century, these become fairly common.

La Varenne refers to three different kinds: with butter, with salt and water and with eggs. Probably, such refinement came well after the Middle Ages, especially since earlier texts make no reference to different ways of making these.
Put on the table a half litron of the best flour, make a little ditch in the middle, put in about a half glass of brewer's yeast, add the necessary hot water, and work it all together, reduce it to a slightly soft dough to use as a leavening, which is why one must gather this dough, turn it like a roll, and put it in a warm place, so that it rises or swells quickly, and if it is in Summer it might swell sufficiently in half a quarter hour.
While waiting for the leavening to rise, put on the table a quart of the best flour, make a ditch in the middle, put in a pound of unsalted butter, which butter you will have worked and softened before it is too hard, add an ounce or a little more of fine salt, put these things together, added what is needed of cold water to knead this dough.
When this dough has been half-kneaded, take your leavening if it is ready, that is if it is filled out and swollen, put it with your dough while finishing kneading it.
And when it is sufficiently kneaded, cut it into pieces, which you will mold by hand into rolls which must then be stretched out to form echaudés.
This done one must have in a cauldron or in a jam pan, water on the fire, and it must be almost boiling, throw your echaudés into it, and leave them until they are swollen on top: and then they must be stirred about in this water, then take a skimmer with which you will raise into the air a little of the water in which are your echaudés, you will sprinkle them or bathe them in this water, leaving them nonetheless until they are swollen and firm, to see this, take out one of your echaudés, and you will handle it to see if they are firm enough.
When you judge that the echaudés are sufficiently swollen, take them out of the water with a skimmer, and put them to dry and cool on a small rack; then put them in the oven: it only takes a quarter of an hour to bake common small echaudés.
But the oven must be rough, that is, it must be as hot all through as it was for cooking large pasties.
If the echaudés do not take on enough color while baking, one must make a little light fire towards the end, to one of the cheeks or side of the oven, in order for the heat to fall on the echaudés and give them color.
Note that if you do not put any butter in the mixture for your echaudés, you will only make salt and water echaudés, which are more prized by some people than butter echaudés.
As for egg echaudés, they are also made like those with butter: but eggs must be put in the dough; it is why for a quart of flour one must break fifteen eggs, and only put in a half pound of butter.
The dough with which one wants to make egg echaudés must be well worked, and softer than for the other echaudés.
Note too that one must use a less rough oven for egg echaudés, than for those made only with salt and water, or with butter.
One detail here is striking in terms of French bread history: the use of a separate pre-ferment for the yeast (which at this point was mainly used in France for pastry but not bread). Variants on this technique were still a long way off in bread-baking.

Briand's recipe from 1750 begins with a frank adaptation of La Varenne's. But he adds some unusual variations:
Grilled salt echaudés
Split them in two down the middle; marinate them with oil, a little salt and coarse pepper; marinated, put them to grill on a low fire, being careful not to burn them; lay them out on a plate, sprinkle them with a little oil and serve as a roast dish at a collation.
Glazed echaudés
Take slightly large echaudés, cut them down the middle between the two crusts and set them to soak in milk with sugar, in proportion to what you have of echaudés; cur them and put them on hot coals for four or five hours with boiling them; after take them out of the milk and set them to drain, and fry them in lard, or else in oil; when they are fried and well colored, take them cleanly out with a skimmer, powder them with sugar and glaze them with a hot shovel, from one side first and then the other and serve hot.
Of the many recipes in the nineteenth century, one comes from the great cook Carême (1834) (here in a period translation):
Paste for echaudés {Scalded Cakes).
To make sixty echaudés take three-quarters of a pound of flour; make a hole in the centre as usual, and put therein three drams of fine salt, four ounces of butter, and seven eggs; mix these ingredients, and then lightly add the flour. The paste should now be rather soft; if otherwise, add a white, yolk, or whole egg, as may be necessary. Then give it five turns by kneading it well with your wrists, and afterwards work it for a few minutes by taking a part of the paste at the time in your hand, throwing it back again on the remainder. The paste, which should now have a beautiful gloss and be extremely elastic, is then put on a small round board, the top lightly sprinkled with flour, and, after being covered with a napkin, put into a cool place. It is generally made in the evening to scald the following morning; but it may also be scalded three hours after making it, in the following manner.—Cut the paste in four long pieces of equal length, each of which form into a roll of an inch in diameter, and then cut it into fifteen small slices, which place on the lid of a small stewpan covered with flour, with the side that has been cut downwards. When all the echaudés have been cut out in this manner and placed on two lids, throw them in a large stewpan with boiling water, preventing them as much as possible from sticking to each other. At first they will sink to the bottom, when you must lightly stir the surface of the water (which should not boil) with a spatula, in order to make them rise. As soon as they have been sufficiently scalded (which you will be able to ascertain by their feeling a little firm, and the middle being no longer soft), take them out of the stewpan and put them in a large earthen pan full of water. After soaking them for five hours, drain them in a sieve; and, a few minutes after, range them on plates or very thin boards at full two inches distance from each other, and then put them in a hot oven. They should have eighteen or twenty minutes' baking; and if during that time the oven could be kept shut, they would look all the better. When they have been taken out of the oven, they may be cut in two, and a pinch of fine salt with a spoonful of lukewarm butter put lightly on each of them: the two halves are then put together, and they are served up hot with coffee, tea, or chocolate.
Dumas' recipe (printed posthumously in 1873) curiously specifies not to use yeast, saying that the pastries will rise on their own, but then says to add leavening (that is, sour dough) without giving any measure for this:
Make your dough without yeast. The dough will ferment enough during the time it rests. Keep hot about thirty minutes, 125 grams of flour, 60 grams of salt, 125 grams of eggs and 500 grams of butter; mix and knead all of this three times; put in leavening in small pieces, and knead it six more times in the same way; put the dough in a tablecloth or a napkin until the next day; then cut the echaudés the desired size to put them in boiling water which is take off the fire and which once it stops boiling, one is careful to drain the water and to take them out and put them in cold water as they rise; drain them well; bake them in the oven.

A number of modern recipes can still found on-line (typically in French).

UPDATE 5-7-2015

It turns out these were even served at Delmonico's in the late nineteenth century:

 (3282). Echaudes (Echaudes)
Arrange one pound of sifted flour in a circle on the table; in the center lay two ounces of butter, two ounces of sugar, a well-crushed piece of carbonate of ammonia the size of a hazel-nut, a pinch of salt and eight whole eggs; mix all well together, obtaining a very smooth paste, but not too firm, working it so that it attains considerable body. Flatten this paste to an inch and a half in thickness with the rolling-pin, lay it on a floured tin sheet and leave to rest for two or three hours in a cool spot. Invert this paste on a lightly floured table and cut it into pieces; roll each of these to form a string an inch and a half in diameter, then divide into three-quarter-inch lengths. Lay these cakes on their cut end on a round floured pan cover; boil water in a vessel larger than this cover; at the first boil take the water from the fire, invert the cover over and pour boiling water on this to detach the pieces of paste; return the vessel to the fire without letting the water boil, and shake it about.
As soon as the pieces of paste rise to the surface remove them with a skimmer and throw into a pan of fresh water, leaving them in for twelve hours, changing the water every four hours; then drain, range then at some distance apart in hermetically closed hinged baking sheets, and bake in a hot oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes.


For Le Grand d'Aussy's texts on pastry, along with bread and sweets:

Boileau, "Livre de Metiers", Depping, Georges-Bernard, Dissertation sur l'état de l'industrie et du commerce de Paris au XIIIe ... 1837

"1379 (1er mars)", de Saulcy, Félicien, Recueil de documents relatifs à l'histoire des monnaies frappées ..., Volume 1 1879

"Seance de 2 Mars 1847", La province du Maine: feuille hebdomadaire 1848

Favart, Charles-Simon, La matinée, la soirée, et la nuit des boulevards ; ambigu de scènes épisodiques, mêlé de chants et de danses, divisé en quatre parties : représenté devant Leurs Majestés, à Fontainebleau, le 11 octobre 1776

Dumas, Alexandre, Grand dictionnaire de cuisine 1873

Echaudés sold specifically for birds - :Les Volières de 'Atlantique

La Varenne, Pierre François, L'Ecole des ragoûts ou le Chef-d'oeuvre du cuisinier, du patissier et du … 1688

Lebel, Joullain, "Le marchand d'échaudés" : [estampe]

Nicot, Jean,  Dictionnaire françois-latin, augmenté outre les précédentes impressionsd'infinies dictions françoises, principalement des mots de marine,vénerie et faulconnerie, recueilli des observations de plusieurshommes doctes, entre autres de M. Nicot,... et réduit à la forme et perfection des dictionnaires grecs et latins 1584

Carême, M. A, The Royal Parisian Pastrycook and Confectioner from the Original of M. A.Carême 1834


Ranhofer, Charles, The Epicurean 1894

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