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Whigs

Breads
Historic

(or Whiggs, Wigs, Wigges)

A form of small bread cake of distinctive shape. Whiggs are one of the mysteries of traditional English baking as (like Wastel Bread) they are repeatedly mentioned in texts, but were presumably too commonplace for it to be worth anyone's while to explain precisely what they were. The few known receipts seem to be for 'fancy' versions, and the distinctive shape is not properly explained, though Raffald 1769 says they are to be "moulded long ways, and thick in the middle".

Known at least since a text reported as being from 1376 in Henry Thomas Riley's 'Munimenta Gildhallæ Londoniensis'; "Cum uno pane de obolo, vocato ‘wygge’" (he had a piece of bread called a 'wygge') (OED)

We might possibly guess at the shape and composition from J. Taylor's 'Jack a Lent' of 1620; "His round halfe-penny loaues are transformd into sq[u]are wiggs, (which wigges like drunkards are drownd in their Ale)." and from Richard Surflet's 1600 translation of the French 'Maison rustique, or countrie farme' which has; "The workers in pastrie do vse the rising of beere to make their wigs withall."


Original Receipt in 'English Housewifry' by Elizabeth Moxon, 1764 (Moxon 1764)

241. To make WHIGGS.
Take two pounds of flour, a pound of butter, a pint of cream, four eggs, (leaving out two of the whites) and two spoonfuls of yeast, set them to rise a little; when they are mixed add half a pound of sugar, and half a pound of caraway comfits, make them up with sugar and bake them in a dripping pan.




Original Receipt in 'The Experienced English Housekeeper' by Elizabeth Raffald (Raffald 1769)

To make Light Wigs.
To three quarters of a Pound of fine Flour, put half a Pint of Milk made warm, mix it in two or three Spoonfuls of light Barm, cover it up, set it half an Hour by the Fire to rise, work in [??] ounces of Sugar, and four Ounces of Butter, make it into Wigs with as little Flour as possible, and a few Seeds, set them in a quick Oven to bake



See:
Hawkshead Whiggs
Dorset Whigs

For the similarly-named drink, see Wig


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