Thursday, 14 July 2016


Jumbals, or jumbles are spicy, boiled and baked biscuits.  I have never made a biscuit like this before so I was feeling a bit trepidatious.  This recipe is from The Good Housewife's Jewel (1596), so obviously it has been a success for over 400 years.   Some of my fellow students said it was a disaster, and others claimed to like them so I guess I had a 50/50 chance.  Let's see how I went.



2 eggs

100g. caster sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp caraway seeds

1¾ - 2 cups of plain flour

rosewater to brush the ends

icing sugar to sprinkle over the top


Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat well with a whisk or fork

Add the sugar and beat well together

Throw in the spices and mix together

Now add the flour a bit at a time till you have a firm dough - (you may not need all the flour)

Pat it into a firm dough then flatten it out on a board or surface

Cut into 8 equal pieces, then cut each piece into 2 long strips and twist together to form a braid or make a crescent shape

Brush the ends with rosewater

Gently drop them into a pan of boiling water till they float to the top

Take them out with a spider (large slotted spoon-not the arachnid variety.  Oh go on, try if you must!)

Place them on a cloth to dry

Now lay them on a greased baking tray

Sprinkle with more rosewater and some icing sugar

Bake at 160C for about 20 minutes 

Take out of the oven and sprinkle with rosewater and icing sugar

Turn the oven up to 170C for about another 15-20 minutes till they are hard and golden brown

Take them out and sprinkle again with rosewater and icing sugar

If you remember to do it, turn them over several times during the baking process


Some of the students baked theirs for 2 hours.  Wow I was amazed. I guess they were like little rocks by that time.

The copious amounts of icing sugar were my idea, and the constant throwing over of the rosewater was also my idea - they just told you to brush it on the ends once

The recipe says to use aniseed but I didn't want a savoury biscuit so I used just a wee bit of caraway seeds with the cinnamon

whisking the eggs

whisking in the sugar and spices  

start adding the flour to the eggs  

Johnny stirring in the flour with his broken hand   

turning into a firm dough    

patted into a firm doughy ball    

flatten and cut into 8 pieces     

ready to be boiled then baked  

boiling the weird little jumbals  

and out of the oven all baked  

sprinkled with rosewater and icing sugar  

These turned out rather hard and chewy; but good for dunking.  I liked the rosewater and icing sugar.  Not sure I would go for the aniseed/caraway version.  

Original recipe
Thomas Dawson, Good Housewife’s Jewel (1596)
Take twenty eggs and put them in a pot, both the yolks and the white: beat them well. Then take a pound of beaten sugar and put to them, and stir them well together. Then put to it a quarter of a peck of flour and make a hard paste thereof; and then with aniseed mould it well and make it in little rolls, being long. Tie them in knots, and wet the ends with rosewater. Then put them in a pan of seething water, but even in one waum. Then take them out with a skimmer and lay them in a cloth to dry. This being done, lay them in a tart pan, the bottom being oiled. Then put them in a temperate oven for one house, turning them often in the oven.

okay so it's my wonky blue egg doodle - so?  

Apparently eggs were smaller in the late Tudor period; who knew? Smaller chooks perhaps?  So they suggest you halve the amount in any recipe before the 1930's. Crumbs, did chooks suddenly go on steroids then?


  1. Chooks went on hormones, but which hormones is beyond me - steroids are a hormone - bantam eggs would be a good substitute I would think. I'm not a fan of anise falvour so I would leave that part out too.

  2. Interesting point about the eggs. When I've had chicken in rural China away from big factory production it's quite different. Not as meaty and with much smaller breasts and less overall size too. Maybe eggs are the same too and now they breed the hens for size?

    1. We were amazed how in the US chickens were just massive. You could buy a 5 pound chook as just regular size. And the turkeys :)!

  3. Right - so surely these have some link to 'Honey Jumbles'? I wonder what happens if you make the dough and then shape into little logs, dip in hot water (not boil) then bake? ie: don't flatten. A bit like traditional pretzels are made. Would they be softer? Something to ponder.

    1. I don't know Fiona. I have never made pretzels;). It was really interesting making these for sure.

  4. Such an ancient recipe! I do love recipes from the past. I have only ever heard of honey jumbles before, that Arnott's biscuit with either the white or pink icing. They sound a little similar with the spices xx

    1. this is such fun charlie checking out these historical recipes. I love it!


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