Friday, 3 April 2015

An indecipherable recipe - Baton Sale/Salty Biscuits

At that time of the year when Kahk and Cornetti made their appearance at Granddad's, a form of savoury biscuits also appeared. My sister and I would eat them, but they weren't the thing we'd make a bee line for. 
Instead they were left for Mum, solid savoury sticks with cumin seeds mixed throughout that she would nibble on, as happily as we would devour the Kahk. 

Mum knew them as Salty biscuits, Baton Sale, made specifically with the salty residue of the melted butter used in the Kahk, but that was about it. We never learnt to make them, never saw Granddad (or Silvija) make them, but when Granddad passed away I found the recipe (or two) in amongst his things. 

The first recipe was in English and legible which was a surprise. But completely without quantities. I was a little surprised by the lack of reference to cumin seeds. The biscuits I knew had always had cumin seeds in them. Granddad never made them any other way. 

 The second recipe... well...
Let's just say it was typical of what I was coming to expect from Assunta (Granddad's mother).
The title is in French
The rest is in Italian
The measurements are completely unknown.

Baton Sale
Original transcription
1/2 oka farina
1/2 _____ flour
75 drammi di burro (Samna)
75 ______ of butter (___)
6 cucchi_ini rasati di sale
6 level teaspoons of salt
piu d'un quarto de latte
a little more than a _____ of milk
2 pacchi baking powder
2 packets of baking powder 

The internet resolved an oka for us. It is a standard Turkish measurement that equates to about 1.28kg. Goodness knows why a Turkish measurement was being used. I wonder though whether that was a standard measurement in which one bought flour in Alexandria at the time. This would make more sense than it being an Australian quantity and if Assunta had made the recipe enough times she wouldn't need to worry about translating the quantity. Not with all her other recipes saying to add enough flour until it 'feels right'.

Mum had previously determined that a dramma (pl. drammi) was no relation to the scottish dram but instead an antique Italian measurement equating to about 5g.

Samna was the next unfamiliar word, but one that is actually standard of Middle Eastern cooking recipes. Basically it refers to clarified butter. This doesn't equate with Mum's memories but makes sense given the addition of the salt.

The delightful one was quarto. This couldn't possibly translate as a quart as that would equate to more than a litre which was too much for the amount of flour used. Therefore it had to be a different amount.
Unfortunately, quarto seems to be a standard word in Italian. the internet tells me it is the pronunciation for the letter Q, it is a quarter... and if you emphasis that it is a measurement you get bombarded with paper sizes. None of these seemed relevant. I had to refine the search to 'liquid measurement quarto Italian'.
Scouring the internet I finally stumbled upon these references. Wikipedia is strangely useful at times:

In the first instance a quarto still equates to about 1.2 litres, while in the second about 0.620 litres
These both still seemed to be too much when compared to the amount of flour and the amount of butter already being used, so I kept looking for a different definition.

Thankfully this google book popped out in the search.

This made a hell of a lot more sense. The quantity was more realistic and seemed a far more typical measurement for Assunta to have used. As so much in these recipes is not specified, that the

Original transcription
1/2 (1.28kg) flour640g plain flour
75 (x5) of butter (___)375g clarified butter
6 level teaspoons of salt6 level teaspoons of salt
a little more than a _____ of milka little more than 1 cup of milk
2 packets of baking powder

Mum indicated that a packet of baking powder
was like a packet of yeast, 7g each.
This would equate to 15g

The rest of the recipe was relatively standard and we worked it out (without the holey Italian) based on another baton sale recipe we found online and the standard procedure for solid savoury biscuits.

Mum melted the butter and salt together and mixed it into the dry ingredients (cumin seeds and a pinch of cumin powder included). This method was chosen as it was an essential step in Mum's recollections of seeing her Grandmother and her aunts make them. It was the melted salty remnants of the butter that were used.
You could probably also rub the butter and flour together as an alternative method.
As this recipe didn't use yeast, there was no need for sugar or warm milk so the milk required was just poured in and mixed well.

As Assunta's recipe made no reference to the oven temperature and the time we guess-timated.
Moderate oven until golden brown verging on brown.
They need to be thoroughly cooked and dry.

Granddad used to eat them with beer or with Ouzo mixed with coke.
I won't be trying the later combination, but maybe on the back lawn with an Ouzo and Soda.

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