Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1199

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1067
DESSERT SWEETMEATS

all cases the beauty of the fruit may be enhanced by surrounding it with foliage. Keen competitors in public favour are the tender green, delicately trailing smilax, the beautiful feathery asparagus, and the double-edged mallow; strawberry and vine leaves have a pleasing effect; while for winter desserts, the bay, cuba and laurel are sometimes used, holly also being in demand from Christmas Eve to the middle of January.

Dessert Sweets and Sweetmeats.—Until recently the art of sweetmeat making was little understood, and still less practised, by private individuals. Even now there exists a mistaken idea that this artistic branch of cookery presents many difficulties, and that elaborate utensils and implements are essential. Certainly success is more assured when the operations are aided by a saccharometer, marble slab, crystallizing tray etc., but they are not indispensable. By measuring accurately, testing repeatedly, and by taking care to apply the right amount of heat, an amateur should find no difficulty in preparing any of the sweetmeats for which recipes are given on the following pages.

Except when otherwise stated, the lid should be kept on the stewpan while the sugar is being brought to boiling point and during the early stages of the following process, to prevent the sugar crystallizing on the sides of the pan. When this occurs, the particles of sugar adhering to the sides of the stewpan must be removed by means of a brush dipped in water, for if allowed to remain, they may cause the sugar to grain. Cream of tartar is added to the syrup to prevent the sugar granulating, and carbonate of soda serves to whiten the toffee, etc., with which it is mixed.

When cooking over gas it is advisable to have a piece of sheet-iron to place over the gas burners when a very slow continuous application of heat is required, as in making caramels, etc. In boiling treacle and brown sugar a large stewpan should be used, as these ingredients are apt to boil over more quickly than white sugar.

Of the utensils and implements mentioned in the following pages, those absolutely necessary are simple and inexpensive, and comprise a hair sieve; a spatula, which is flat, wooden, with a broad rounded end tapering off to a long narrow handle; a sweet fork and ring, both made of twisted wire; and a candy hook. For this latter implement may be substituted a strong iron larder hook, which should be fixed firmly on a wall about 5 feet from the floor, according to the height of the worker. When a sugar skimmer is not available for testing the sugar as it approaches the "small ball" degree, a piece of wire twisted to form small rings will be found a good substitute. A saccharometer, caramel cutter, crystallizing tray moulds, and a marble slab are indispensable to those who wish to excel in the higher branches of the art of sweet-making, but with few exceptions, all the following recipes require nothing further for their preparation than the few simple appliances enumerated above.