Friday, March 11, 2016

Advice to Confectioners (1830)

It would appear from the advice in Gunter's Confectioner's Oracle, containing receipts for desserts ... with an appendix, containing the best receipts for pastry-cooks ... being a companion to Dr. Kitchener's Cook's Oracle (London, 1830) that a classical education (including significant skill in Latin) was assumed. I give you the introductory chapter:-


MY first and most strenuous precept is, that you be at all times cleanly, for otherwise you will be fit only to fabricate the wretched trumpery that is hawked about the streets, in lieu of preparing dainties for the tables of Princes, Nobles, and persons of fortune.

My next piece of advice is, that you cultivate an agreeable temper, which will very materially influence the propriety of your decisions, and will ward off the prevalence and ill consequences of accident. Silly, weak people, have a sort of veneration for that which chance occurrences may produce, particularly if they have had the good luck Once or twice to find their remissness or negligence turn to good account: - but you may rest assured that in the end, they are always unfortunate.

In addition,—you must have a quick eye, a delicate tongue, (both for tasting and for speaking)—a facility of manoeuvring your hands, – an extreme patience,—a sustained vigilance, —and, above all, a thorough love for, and devotedness to, your profession.

Enthusiasm is only made a mockery of among those who are remarkable for unambitious mediocrity: it is the surest test of latent excellence in a young mind,—and therefore, never attempt to conceal or subdue the feelings which attach you to a laudable pursuit: on the contrary, give all your better energies an unreserved exercise: remember—

Paulum sepultae distat inertiae celata virtus
[Little separates hidden worth from buried indolence].

Although you may have been tolerably educated, I think it more than probable that you are unacquainted with the history of your art, and as patience is one of your chief characteristics, (if you are good for any thing) you will read attentively what I am now about to write,—by which means, you will, I expect, find all that I shall recount to you.

Notwithstanding the numerous festivities celebrated in the Iliad and Odyssey, yet I do not recollect a single instance wherein any word may be distinctly applied to cates or beverages, of whose components we can form a just conception—This, I think, is easily to be accounted for: an epic poet can only make allusions: if he descends to the mere mechanism of art or science, he becomes a driveller at Once.

This exemption from detail does not however apply to the historian, and therefore I cannot do less than exceedingly blame Herodotus, who, makes no mention of them, notwithstanding the many opportunities he possessed of expatiating learnedly on the nature of confections. Were it not for the note of one Joachim Camerarius, which I have read in a rare edition printed at Milan in 1703, I should have been no wiser, after going through his ten thousand pages than before.

By this I learn that one of the Ptolemies having conveyed his bevy of beauty up the Nile, as far as the island of Elephantina, entertained them and the Nobles of his household with a collation served in double vessels lined with ice, brought from the hills of Wady Halfa.

This is something to have gleaned; and then also we have an undeniable testimony in the charming ‘Libanius’ (where he describes an ancient festival) of the existence of Pâtés d'office, Spongati, iced-fruit waters, and even fruits moulded in ice!

Aristotle is too vague for any determinate inference as to the components of a Macedonian dessert, but in Alfarabius, his apologist, we have ample amends: he treats very interestingly of syrups; these were a substitute for the after-invention of Jellies.

Ovid, (not being an epic poet, he was permitted to be discursive) in various portions of his Metamorphoses, makes it extremely evident that either candy or some material extremely analogous to it, was known in his time. Both biscuits (a few varieties only) compotes, and preserved fruits, were known to Suetonius, as we may gather from his description of the petits soupers of Augustus. “Sparsit et missilia variarum rerum et panaria cum opsonio viritim divisit,”[ He also threw about gifts of various kinds, and gave each man a basket of victuals] says he in speaking of Caligula,—by which I am not inclined to understand bread and victuals, but confectionery, - that is, Spanish bread.

From the writers during the reigns of the later Emperors, we can gain neither facts nor valuable opinions: as to confectionery, it is (I am sorry to say) never once alluded to; a circumstance, it will be allowed, that argues a considerable absence of taste.

It was reserved for Goldoni and Bocaccio in a still less remote century to yield us a delightful meed of information: then, the maraschino ice-cream, four varieties of jellies and apricot-marmalade were favourite confections with the beauties and the beaux of Venice and Milan. The French historian, De Thou, or Thuanus, informs us that it was a Count Albufage Caramel of Nismes, who discovered precisely the 7th stage of boiling sugar, termed after him a caramel.

It was not until the time of Louis XIV that our art approached to perfection. That munificent and luxurious Prince encouraged all experiments in it, and rewarded the inventors of marmalade, jujube and orgeat pastes, — spongati,- dents de loups biscuits, —several very delicate liqueurs, especially that à la vanille, –gimblettes, orangeade, —Flemish wafers, - rose whipt cream,- and the family of prawlings.

Comfits were at about the same period invented in Italy, and during the reign of Louis XV the first grand Pièce montée, consisting of a rocher, moulin, cathedral, waterfall and boats was introduced at Versailles during the Fête de Saint Louis: portions of which were set in motion by concealed machinery, to the astonishment and delight of the guests and spectators.

We have now followed up all the records of our art to the dynasty of Louis XV., since which very considerable improvements have taken place in the fabrication of Jellies and in Caramel Work, and indeed in every other department, so that it is probable henceforth the advances will be slow and not very material.

You should therefore study the art, with a view to come up to the excellence of your contemporaries, than to invent; in which last attempt you may injure your health, and render your character ambiguous;—and instead of being a respectable and thriving professor in Regent Street, Bond Street, St. James's Street, or Berkeley Square, - you may end your days in a prison, after having pined away for years, with scarcely the means of keeping soul and body together.

The book contained an appendix which gave information on the essential ingredients used by confectioners. Two phrases stood out here for me, because they say much about the range of varieties of fruit commonly available then, and now. How many of you who are avid dessert-makers would agree that of

Apples … there are about forty-five varieties in use, eighteen of which are for deserts [sic].

Pears … there are forty-one varieties; seventeen of which are for dessert?
Naturally today’s recipe comes from the book. I doubt you will have eighteen varieties of apples from which to choose, if you want to make these fine-sounding biscuits.

Apple Biscuits.

Add to 2lbs. apple pulp 2 ¾ lbs. pulverized sugar, 3 whole eggs, and a portion of essence of clove; stir all well together in a pan, over a moderate fire, adding 3 ¼ lbs. flour, and ½ lb. starch in powder, when the mixture is hot; lay it out with the large screw funnel, ice the biscuits, and bake them.

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