Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Flavours of Sugar.

It doesn’t take much reading of historical cookery books to make one realise that there is little or nothing under the culinary sun that is brand new. Sometimes there is the realisation that a good old idea is waiting to be rediscovered and rebranded as innovative and fashionable.

Flavoured salt is currently quite fashionable. As the fashion for it inevitably wanes (perhaps it is already trending towards passé?), perhaps we should rediscover flavoured sugar? Of course, we all recycle our slightly-used vanilla beans into a jar of sugar, don’t we? And I have come across lemon sugar as a topping for cookies too, but surely there are more ideas?

I recently came across a sentence in Richard Burton’s The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, (1882) which gave me the idea:

“So they waited until Obayd had eaten his fill and washed his hands and drunk coffee and sherbets of sugar flavoured with musk and ambergris.”

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? We have come across ambergris before in this blog, in recipes for negus and almond pudding, but it is not available in my local supermarket or delicatessen, so I cannot make ambergris sugar (I am thinking flavoured sugars might make nice Christmas gifts). There are references to ‘sugar of roses’ and ‘sugar of violets’ being purchased by the nobleman Earl Clare, in 1275, for a total of 27 shillings – an enormous sum in those days – but I have no garden. Cinnamon sugar for cinnamon toast is nice, but not interesting. What else is there?

From The Royal English and Foreign Confectioner, by Queen Victoria’s chef Charles Elmé Francatelli (1862), I give you these ideas:

Clove Sugar.
Dry two ounces of cloves and pound them with one pound of loaf sugar in the manner prescribed in the foregoing number.

Orange-Flower Sugar.
Pound four ounces of candied orange flowers with one pound of loaf sugar; sift this, and put it away in a stoppered bottle.

Ginger Sugar.
Pound two ounces of ground ginger with one pound of loaf sugar, and finish as above.

Quotation for the Day.

Confectionary is the poetry of epicurism it throws over the heavy enjoyments of the table the relief of a milder indulgence, and dispenses the delights of a lighter and more harmless gratification of the appetite.
The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-Cook, and Baker; Parkinson, (1864)


Anonymous said...

Lavender sugar! You can still buy lavender sugar...

The Old Foodie said...

Of course! thanks desperance, I had forgotten lavender sugar (even though I have made it in the past).

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

That orange-flower sugar sounds wonderful! I was thinking of making orange-flower water from the blossoms on our tree, but maybe I'll candy some orange-flower petals instead, and have orange-flower syrup left over ...

Fay said...

Heston Blumenthal in one of his 'recreation of feasts past' TV shows used ambergris in one of the dishes. He had to source it from a specialist dealer in France and it was expensive enough to give even Heston pause.
Lucky whales!