Thursday, March 26, 2015

Subtleties&Stuffe Glasse & The Compleat Confectioner

Hannah Glasse

When one speaks of cookery and the women who wrote cookery books, the eighteenth century author Hannah Glasse (1708?-1770) comes to mind. Her anonymous volume The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy … by a Lady first appeared in 1746. The undated volume The Compleat Confectioner appeared probably around 1760. What is less well known is that Glasse in the 1740s opened and operated a costumier’s shop. It attracted the aristocracy but floundered in debts amid borrowed money. Glasse was forced into bankruptcy, lost her rights to The Art of Cookery, and eventually was sent to debtor’s prison in 1758. Nothing is known regarding her last years, although the undated volume The Compleat Confectioner appeared circa 1760. (Some entries indicate 1750? but this probably incorrect.) Her death was mentioned in a 1770 news account.

Given that the full title is The compleat confectioner: or, The whole art of confectionary made plain and easy. Shewing, the various methods of preserving and candying, both dry and liquid, all kinds of fruit, flowers, and herbs; the different ways of clarifying sugar; and the method of keeping fruit, nuts, and flowers fresh and fine all the year round. Also directions for making rock-works and candies ... Likewise, the art of making artificial fruit, with the stalks in it, so as to resemble the natural fruit. To which are added, some bills of fare for deserts for private families, it is not surprising the work contains at least some material on boiling sugar and degrees.Although published in 1760, Glasse's instructions are not as detailed as though contained in other works we have already examined.

The first recipe is “To clarify sugar.” Following that instruction follows the sugar boiling instructions.

To boil sugar to the degree called smooth.
When your sugar is thus clarified, put what quantity you have occasion for over the fire. To boil smooth; the which you’ll prove by dipping your scummer into the sugar, and then touching it with your fore-finger and thumb; in opening them, you will see a small thread drawn betwixt, which immediately breaks, and remains in a drop on your on your thumb; thus it is a little smooth: then boiling more, it will draw into a larger string; then it is become very smooth. [p 2]
[scummer probably is a skimmer]

The blown sugar.
Boil your sugar longer than the former, and try it thus, viz. dip in your scummer, and take it out, shaking off what sugar you can into the pan, and then blow with your mouth strongly through the holes; and if certain bubbles or bladders blow through, it is boiled to the degree called blown. [p 2-3]

The feathered sugar.
It is a higher degree of boiling sugar; which is to be proved by dipping the scummer, when it hath boiled somewhat longer; shake it first over the pan, then give it a sudden flurt behind you; if it be enough, the sugar will fly off like feathers. [p 3]
(flurt? Possibly a long s so spurt? You are giving the skimmer a quick shake.)

The crackled sugar.
Is proved by letting it boil somewhat longer; and then dipping a stick into the sugar, which immediately remove into a pot of cold water, standing by for that purpose, drawing off the sugar that cleaves to the stick; if it becomes hard, and will snap in the water, it is enough; if not, you must boil it till it comes to that degree.
Note: Your water must be always very cold or it will deceive you. [p 3]

The carmel sugar.
Is known by boiling yet longer; and is proved by dipping a stick, as aforesaid, first in the Sugar, and then in the water: but this you must observe, when it comes to the carmel height, it will snap like like glass the moment it teaches the cold water, which is the highest and last degree of boiling sugar.
Note: Observe that your fire be not very fierce when you boil this, lest flaming up the sides of your pan, it should cause the sugar to burn, and so discolour it. [p 4]

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