Hedgehog

No actual hedgehogs were harmed in the making of this recipe.

Recipes for marzipan hedgehogs were ubiquitous in 18th century cookbooks (and continued to appear in the 19th century as well). This author of this recipe, Henry Howard, remarks that the hedgehog should be served as a side dish. At the time, sweet and savory dishes were often served together in the same course. Some 18th century cookbooks even call for meat jelly to be poured around the hedgehog instead of custard – which sounds just a little too gross for me to try! I’ll be sticking with custard for this version.

Marzipan:

  • 1/2 pound finely ground almonds or almond flour
  • 1 tsp orange flower water
  • 1 whole egg, 2 yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or more if desired)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • slivered almonds for spines
  • currants or raisins for eyes

Custard:

  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  1. Put the ground almonds, orange flower water, egg and yolks, sugar, cream, and melted butter in a metal bowl and stir together until it forms a paste.
  2. Place the metal bowl over a saucepan full of water and heat over medium-low heat. Stir the mixture until it becomes thick enough to shape, about 20-25 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool slightly until cold enough to handle. Shape into the form of a hedgehog and decorate with almond slivers for spines. Use currants or raisins for the eyes and nose.
  4. To make the custard, heat the cream, egg yolks, and sugar in a double boiler or in a metal bowl placed over a saucepan full of water. Keep stirring until it thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Pour around the hedgehog. Place it in the fridge until the custard is set.

Tasting notes:

This was evidently a dish meant for a dinner party of many people, because it is not easy to eat this much marzipan! While the almond and orange flower flavors are nice, the marzipan is very rich, so it’s difficult to eat more than a bite or two at a time. The texture is also slightly grainy and chewy in a way that gums up your teeth. The custard actually helps clear the palate after a few bites of marzipan.

I’m glad I cut this recipe in half – I would reduce it even further unless I was making it for a lot of people. While it tastes good in small doses, this much marzipan is just overwhelming to eat. I think this is a dish where the appearance is meant to be more impressive than the taste.

Thomas Bewick, illustration to Ralph Beilby’s A General History of Quadrupeds, 1790. The British Museum.

References:

Ayto, J. (2012). Hedgehog. In The diner’s dictionary: Word origins of food & drink. (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Howard, H. (1708). England’s newest way in all sorts of cookery, pastry, and all pickles that are fit to be used. London: Chr. Coningsby. https://www.loc.gov/resource/rbc0001.2012pennell14160/?sp=84

2 thoughts on “Hedgehog

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