The sweet we are preparing today is part of the chapter of De Re Coquinaria dedicated to the dulcia domestica, which means homemade sweets, probably to distinguish them from others made, instead, by specialized bakers. The dulcia domestica are, indeed, very easy and quick to make, differently from others more complex that we know thanks to Cato’s De Agri Cultura, such as placenta. We prepared some recipes for dulcia domestica in the past, for example stuffed dates and ova spongia, a very simple omelette.
This sweet is based on a puls prepared with durum wheat flour and milk (or water, as the recipe specifies, but the author recommends milk), then fried and covered with honey and pepper, a very common ingredient in the ancient Greek and Roman desserts.
We met the word puls in the past, preparing the puls Punica and granea triticea from Cato’s recipes and, more recently, an ancient German meal. Actually, the one we are making today is more similar to a polenta than a puls, since puls is usually made with overcooked cereals, then pounded to make a thick cream. The author specifies that we have to make a durissima puls with the flour and milk, which means a very hard puls.
Despite its simplicity, this recipe is incredibly good, but the secret is the choice of the ingredients: excellent honey and pepper. We used black pepper, the most common in ancient Rome, but if you prefer a note more intensely aromatic, you can try to add long pepper.
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150 gr durum wheat flour
1 l milk
Mix the flour and milk, cooking at low heat for about 15 minutes. If it hardens too much, add a bit of milk, but the final outcome must be very hard.
Let the puls cool, then spread it on a plate and cut it into small squares. Warm the oil and fry the sweets for about 5 minutes.
Grind the black pepper in the mortar. Plate the sweets dusting with pepper and pouring over honey.
Aliter dulcia: accipies similam, coques in aqua calida, ita ut durissimam pultem facias, deinde in patellam expandis. Cum refrixerit, concidis quasi ad dulcia et frigis in oleo optimo. Levas, perfundis mel, piper aspergis et inferes. Melius feceris, si lac pro aqua miseris.
Other sweets: take durum wheat flour, cook it in hot water until you obtain a very hard puls, then spread it on a plate. When it is cooled down, cut it as to make sweets and fry in excellent oil. Remove them from the pan, pour over honey, dust with pepper, and serve. It will be better if you use milk instead of water.
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Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources
Translations of Historical Sources
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum – first part (11th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano – first part (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
Ancient Roman Frittata
A Saturnalia Recipe – Roast with Saffron Sauce
Muria – Ancestor of Colatura di Alici
Globi – Ancient Roman Sweet
The Diet of the Roman Legionaries – Buccellatum, Lardum, and Posca
How to make garum
Ancient Roman Gourd and Eggs
Ofella – Ancient Roman Steak
Fruit salads – Melon and Peaches
Isicia Marina – Shrimp Cakes and Cucumber Salad
Sala Cattabia – Snow and Posca
Copadia – Beef Stew
Puls Punica – Phoenician Dessert
Farcimina – Spelt and Meat Sausages
Ova Spongia ex Lacte – Sweet Omelettes
Flatbread and Chickpea Soup
Salted Fish with Arugula Sauce
Savillum – Cheesecake
Pasta and Meatballs – Minutal Terentinum
Venison Stew with Spelt Puls
Veal with Allec Sauce – Ius in Elixam Allecatum
Isicia Omentata – Meatballs Wrapped in Caul Fat
Placenta – Honey Cheesecake
Pork Laureate – Porcellum Laureatum
Poppy Seed Bread with Ancient Dry Yeast
Cured Olives and Epityrum