A bouillon made of rice, wheat and water is the stuff of haitias lore, and it’s also a common ingredient in the world’s favourite French pastry.
The French made the bouillon from rice, water and barley in a process known as la bouillonie, or “pumpkin bouillon”, which means “bouillon made from pumpkin”.
The process was popularised by the French-born American cook, and by the late 1800s, it was widely available in the US.
Its popularity was partly fueled by its simplicity.
“You have a little lump of rice or wheat, and a little water, and the water is heated and mixed with the rice,” said Paul Jankowsky, an associate professor of pastry arts at New York University.
In the early 1800s a small handful of French cookbooks made a name for themselves by describing the process in detail.
It was also a way of introducing fresh ingredients to a recipe.
By the end of the 1800s French cookbook publishers were producing more than 300,000 recipes and producing over 300 million bouillon cubes.
According to Jankowski, the bouillion’s popularity was fuelled by a new market of Americans who wanted something to make up for the lack of fresh ingredients available to them in the West.
While Americans could afford the more expensive ingredients in the bouillons recipes, American farmers couldn’t afford the cheap ingredients, so they went looking for cheaper ways of making the bouills.
At the time, a variety of domestic ingredients were available to the public, including sugar, rice, corn and potatoes.
Once a bouillon was ready to be made, a team of Frenchmen would pour the ingredients into a pot of boiling water.
Water was then added, followed by sugar, barley and flour.
Each of the ingredients was cooked separately until it was purer and more stable than the previous one, Jankowksi said.
As a result, a bouillion would last about three months, and many people would make bouillions of times.
When the bouillions were finally ready to go, they were refrigerated for several weeks before being packaged.
They were usually made in large batches of about 100 or 150 bouillions, each containing 1,000 to 1,200 grams of rice.
If the bouilons were made too hot, the grains would turn brown and the flavour would change, Jinkowski said.
“So it was important to keep them chilled and it was also important to cook them at low temperatures,” he said.
“If they weren’t, they would not be able to make a good bouillon.”