From CHEZ JIM Books:
An EIGHTEENTH CENTURY VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK:
APRES MOI LE DESSERT - VOLUME II
and a history of the CROISSANT:
AUGUST ZANG AND THE FRENCH CROISSANT
18th CENTURY RECIPE: Biskets
A biscuit is so simple a food that it hardly seems worth an antique recipe. But, as a list member
pointed out this week, biscuits were frequently mentioned in our time,
and in fact they seem to have been a little different: for one thing,
they often contained anise and/or caraway seeds as a key ingredient, and
so might have been more like Italian anise cookies than what we think of
as a biscuit. They were also made of a variety of alternative flours.
English recipes often used the phonetic spelling of 'bisket', but the
word 'biscuit' divides neatly in French into bis and cuit - that is
either 'twice' or 'bran bread' followed by 'cooked' = either
twice-cooked, or cooked bran bread (the latter - pain bis - being the
common food of the poor in Old Regime France).
Period recipes for it
aren't hard to find. Here are two English recipes, one for the standard
'bisket cake', the other for the potato-based version:
Moxon's English Housewifery Exemplified:
244. _To make a_ BISKET CAKE.
Take a pound of London flour dry'd before the fire, a pound of loaf
sugar beaten and sifted, beat nine eggs and a spoonful or two of rose
water with the sugar for two hours, then put them to your flour and mix
them well together; put in an ounce of carraway seeds, then put it into
your tin and bake it an hour and a half in a pretty quick oven.
From Richard Bradley's The Country Housewife and Lady's Director:
To makeBiscuits of _Potatoes._ From [Mary Gordon].
Boil the Roots of Potatoes, till they are tender; then peel them, and take their weight of fine
Sugar, finely sifted; grate some Lemon-Peel on the Sugar; and then beat
the Potatoes and Sugar together, in a Stone Mortar, with some Butter, a
little Mace, or Cloves, finely sifted, and a little Gum Dragon, steeped
in Orange-Flower-Water, or Rose-Water, till it becomes a Paste; then
make it into Cakes with Sugar, finely powder'd, and dry them in a gentle
On the French side, the Dictionnaire des Alimens has at least
nine pages of different recipes for biscuits, but here's the simplest:
Common Biscuits (162):
Break eight eggs in any vessel, beat them well
and at length with a wooden spatula, as for an omelette; put in a pound
of powdered sugar, as much flour; mix and blend all this for half an
hour, until your dough is quite white; and if you like, add two pinches
of powdered anise; then pour your dough into molds of tin or of paper,
formed in long squares, with the sides lifted to hold the dough; powder
your biscuits with sugar, put them in the oven, or in a red copper oven
with flames above and below, but more above than below. They need only a
quarter of an hour to cook; when they are cooked and of a good color,
glaze them with powdered sugar, with which you will sprinkle them, and
take them still warm out of their molds.