Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cooking My Years: 'Sweets That Have Tempted Me' by Esme Gray Booker, 1959

There are a lot of cook books on my shelves and if I am honest I am slightly embarrassed by my inability to stop adding yet more. I have run out of shelf space and now have them stacked on the floor under the study table, first just one stack and now three.

I need to stop thinking of them as a collection and then it may be easier to 'use them and then lose them'. So while I am working on a new mind set towards my cookbook attachment I am going to try and re-acquaint myself with some of the hidden gems on the shelves and talk about them here.

Having added all of my books to the Library Thing catalogue and those books that I could to the Eat Your Books online catalogue I realised I had quite a continuous run of publications for each year of my life and that journey seems a good one to follow as I explore the favourite and forgotten books on my shelves.

So we find ourselves starting in 1959 with the very odd title 'Sweets That Have Tempted Me' by Esme Gray Booker. 

I find the title odd because 'tempted' rather suggest resisted as well, and that is no advert for your recipes. The cover jacket describes the author as having a background in domestic science and a graduate of Dietetics and Nutrition. I am not sure that someone with that background would today state that 'Pure sweets are good for young and old'. A philosophy that rather brings back memories of the old candy bar commercial  'A Mars a day helps you work rest and play'. She also advocates that 'sweet making ingredients are clean and pleasant to handle (compared with cleaning fish, scraping carrots or snipping those horrid little bits off kidneys)'. I suspect this is someone who generally had help in the kitchen otherwise scraping carrots could never have been near the top of her list of disliked jobs, there would have been so many more onerous kitchen tasks in the 50's surely.

The book is divided into chapters on different types of sweets: Toffee, Pulled Sweets, Boiled Sweets, Jellies, Marzipan, Fudges, Fondants, Truffles, Nougats, Caramels, Medicinal Sweets,and a few notes on candied fruits and crystallising flowers. 

The recipes are brief and in some cases the instructions barely span four or five lines and are quite vague on quantities and sizes. This is the recipe for Dutch Delights and I am guessing her wineglass was quite a bit smaller than mine or this recipe would have made a huge mound of delights:

Using a wine glass of Advocaat, work into it as much sieved icing sugar as it will take, plus 1 tablespoon of ground almonds. Form into small balls and decorate each one with a sliver of blanched almond and a drop of melted bitter chocolate.

It was the fondant section I was most interested in trying as I had not made boiled fondant for a while and it always seems quite a magical process. I now buy this type of fondant sugar by the 1kg pot from a chocolate wholesale supplier and it is not expensive so I cannot really imagine making it regularly but it is always useful to know how to do it yourself. 

Cooked (boiled) Fondant
You start by dissolving 1lb of sugar in a quarter pint of water. Take this step slowly to ensure all the sugar is dissolved before the liquid starts to boil.

Bring the syrup to the boil and add 1oz of glucose or one eighth tsp of cream of tartar.

Continue boiling until the syrup reaches 240F. I like to keep a pot of water and a pastry brush on hand to keep rinsing down any crystals of sugar that form on the sides of the pan.

As soon as the syrup is up to temperature quickly pour it out onto a lightly dampened marble slab or heat/scratch resistant work surface.

Let the syrup cool until the surface just starts to wrinkle when pushed with a palette knife or scraper.

You now work the syrup around the slab with a pair of scrapers turning the edges into the centre as you go and working your way around the pool of syrup which will soon start to turn opaque. Once the mixture has set and is cool enough it can be kneaded gently by hand, having lightly oiled your hands first with a flavourless oil. The smooth ball of fondant is then tightly wrapped and left for a day.

The fondant paste can be flavoured in many ways to make sweets, and it can also be used to coat small cakes like fondant fancies, iced finger buns etc though this requires the fondant to be warmed gently with a small amount of dilute sugar syrup to obtain a pouring/dipping consistence.

I chose to make peppermint creams with my fondant so a small amount of good quality peppermint oil was kneaded into the fondant which was then rolled out and cut into shapes and left to dry for a day.

I am going to dip these in a very dark chocolate, 82% cocoa, from the lovely Grenada Chocolate company as the contrast of dark and bitter shell around an intensely sweet and aromatic centre works well. I have a few toys for working with chocolate as it is a big hobby of mine but you do not need them. The chef of Sienna restaurant in Dorset has written a really good blog post: Chocolate Tempering and do read this if you are looking to start making your own chocolates it is a great first read.

I slowly melt the chocolate to 45-50C stirring regularly but carefully, you do not want to trap air bubbles in the chocolate if you can help it.

More solid chocolate is then added to the pot and the temperature is reduced down to 30-31C. Then the temperature is brought up to 31-32C and kept there throughout the dipping process.

Drop the item to be dipped into the pool of chocolate and then flip it over and up and out of the chocolate using a dipping fork (an emergency cheap dipping fork can be produced by snapping the middle tines out of a plastic fork).

Tap the fork very gently to drain off excess chocolate and then carefully place the dipped item onto a lined metal tray.
If you are not getting on with dipping and you have nice flat shapes try just half dipping each one by carefully holding one side edge in your hand and gently inserting into the chocolate before lifting out and allowing excess to drain off.

I had some chocolate transfer sheets to hand so I tried placing these on top of some of the hearts. Be warned that a very pretty looking transfer, if quite softly coloured and with fine lines, will barely show up on the finished chocolate. Only the small solid hearts showed up but the transfer had quite a lot more line detail on it which would have stood out better on white chocolate.

Leave the dipped items to set in a slightly cool room but not too cold or you can get condensation setting on the surface.

Keep in a sealed container.

Enjoy as these are so much nicer than the after dinners ones served by so many restaurants.

1 comment:

  1. These sound so much nicer than any commercial version and they look lovely too. It's a wonderful idea to be able to trace your progress through life in recipe books.It's fascinating to see how things have changed and how often old recipes seem to have been rediscovered. Sadly, I seem to have a few gaps in my collection.