Jan 5 2015

Pipefarces

So, this week’s food is a type of fried cheese called “cheese pipes” or “pipefarces.” It was certainly an adventure.

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The Process:

The recipe comes from Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks. It called for “extremely hard cheese” and specified cheddar – preferably aged cheddar. I picked up a small block (and might have nibbled a bit on the extra, which was delicious with a nice Granny Smith apple).

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I started off with an egg and a bit of white wine, scrambled up together. Then I added the flour and pinch of salt to create the batter for the cheese. It was very sticky. Most modern batters have you dip the cheese in the egg first and then into the flour before frying, rather then blending the egg and flour together.

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The recipe said to slice the cheese “thinly” and specified lengths of cut for two sides – I took the directions a bit too precisely and cut them as you see here. These were in no way sturdy enough to handle the batter. I went back to the cheese and tried again.

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About 2 inches long and 1/4 inch on each side, to make an even cube. These looked a lot more like the “pipes” I was expecting.

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I managed to batter them without breaking more than a couple. It was sticky going, though, and I wasn’t feeling confident about my coverage – it was hard to get the batter spread evenly. It was very thick in some places and very thin in others – meaning there was a risk of the cheese melting out during the frying.

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It started off okay. At first I thought the ring around the oil was excess batter. But no, in fact, it was my precious cheese leaking out. All it takes is one weak spot and it all comes seeping out.

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I quickly adjusted my batter technique to ensure I was being extremely careful with the coverage. By the time I was done making the last one, there was a colossal amount of loose, fried cheese clinging to the edge of the frying pan.  (Not pictured: all the cheese I’d already scooped out.) You can see from the oil splatters that I should have used a deeper frying pan.

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These are the results. They are definitely fried. I decided to start by breaking them open to check for cheese before actually eating them.

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Bupkis. Nothing but an empty shell.

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A couple of empty shells later, I discovered there’s still some cheese in this one! I ate it. It was mostly breading, but I could definitely taste the cheese.

IMG_1905.JPGThe final one actually had the proper amount of cheese in it. The breading was thick but not too much. It tasted a little burnt (probably because it was the last one made and therefore was cooked in cheese-oil). The texture of the breading was like tempura – crumbly and surprisingly light. It’s nothing at all like you’d find on today’s mozzarella sticks.

Verdict:

They were okay; they have potential, but you really have to be careful not to let the cheese leak out. The breading was unusual and needs to go on thicker than you’d expect.

Overall, if I were to do them again, I’d change a few things. The biggest would be doing the egg-wine mix as a wash on the cheese to coat the pipes thoroughly, then dipping them in the flour before frying. I suspect they’d hold up a lot better. I might try adding some herbs and spices – possibly something as simple as an Italian herb mix (oregano, parsley, sage, thyme, basil) – in with the flour.

Recipe:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 T white wine
  • 1/2 C flour
  • pinch of salt
  • Hard, aged cheese, cut into 2″ x ½” x ½” pipes
  • oil for frying

Mix up the egg and the wine. Sift in the flour with a pinch of salt. Mix should be thick but still “runny” (very sticky). Coat the cheese. Oil should be set on medium-high. Fry the cheese until a light, golden color. Do not let it get as dark as you’re used to for mozzarella sticks. Fry it to tempura color. Dry on paper towels.

Be warned: this recipe WILL SPLATTER, so if you have a gas stove, you will need to be extremely careful not to start a grease fire. This seems like one of those recipes where having a fryer might be worth it.

Let me know if you try this at home! 

 

 

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