Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Subtleties&Stuffe La Varenne on Sugar Stages

François Pierre de La Varenne, (1618-1678) is best known for the 1651 work Le Cuisinier Francois. It was published in English as The French Cook in 1653. He is also credited with a work on pastry Le Patissier Francois (1653) and more importantly a work on confections titled Le Confiturier Francois (bearing the date of 1650 but most bibliographers feel it should be 1660). It's unlikely that a cook, even a master cook, would have possessed the knowledge to author either of these last two volumes, but for our purposes the Le Confiturier Francois is of great interest because it contains instructions on the cooking of sugar.

These instructions plus a very rough translation are:

Cuissons de sucre

La premiere est a lisse, elle se remarque lors que le syrop commence a s’epaissir, qu’en le pregnant avec le doight, & le mettant sur le poulce, il ne coulle plus, & demeure rond comme un pois.

Sugar cooking

The first is a smooth [stage], it is noticeable when the syrup starts to thicken, the only pregnant with [your] finger, and putting it on the thumb, it no longer flows, and is still as round as a pea.

(The syrup thickens and you test by dipping your finger in the syrup and putting it on the thumb where it no longer flows and remains as round as a pea.)

Cuit a perle

Seconde caisson est lors qu’en pregnant avec un doight, & le mettant sur le poulce, & ouvrant les doigts il en sort un petit filet; & lors qu’il en sort un gros de la longueur de la main, cela s’appelle a perle grosse.

Cooked to pearl [stage]

Second is that when pregnant with finger, and putting it on the thumb, and opening the fingers out comes a small net; & When it (the syrup) pulls out a large length of (or along) the hand, this is called a gross (large) pearl [stage.]

Cuit a la plume

3. Cette caisson a plusieurs noms differents, les uns dissent a souflé, les autres a l’espatule, d’autres a rosard, d’autes a la plume. A laquelle je m’arreste, &elle se Remarque en mettant une espatule dedans, & secouant le sucre en l’air, il s’envole comme des plumes seiches sans glue, ou bien trempez une ecumoire dans le le sucre, souflez au travers jusqu’a ce que le sucre s’envole par feuilles : Cette caisson est celle des conserves & des tablettes.

Cooked to pen [feather stage]

3. This stage has several different names, some dissent [or say] soufflé [stage], the other says spatula, others have Rosard [rose (pink) stage], autes of a pen. At which I stop, & (if you place) a spatula (in the syrup), and shaking the sugar in the air, it flies like cuttlefish feathers without glue, or dip a skimmer in the sugar souflez (stage) up has the sugar flies out sheets: this is (the stage) of conserves & tablets.

Cuit a brusle

4. Cette cuisson se remarque lors que l’on trempe son doight dans l’eau fraische, puis dans le sucre, & qu’en remettant dans l’eau fraische, le sucre se casse net comme un verre sans glue, on peut faire la mesme remarque avec  un petit baston. Cette caisson est celle du grand biscuit de citron, celle du caramel, & du sucre tors, ou penide, c’est la derniere cuisse du sucre.

Cooked to BRUSLE (Burned)

4. This is noticeable when cooking that is (when) his finger is dipped in water, then in sugar, and then into the water again, the sugar snaps like a glass without glue, can be after the same remark with a little [stick]. This stage is that of the grand biscuit de citron (great lemon cookie), the caramel, and the twisted sugar or Penide. It is the last cooked sugar stage.

Transcribed from Chap III page 465-466
Le Cuisinier François. Edited by Jean-Louis Flandrin, Philip & Mary Hyman. Paris: Montalba, 1983. (Bibliotheque Bleue edition.)
The original Le confiturier français. [LE CONFITVRIER FRANÇOIS, Où est enseigné la maniere de ....] Paris: Jean Gaillard 1660. A modern English translation by Terence Scully was published as La Varenne's Cookery in 2006 (Totnes, UK: Prospect Books, 2006.)
A version of the same text may be found online where the 1675 edition of  La Varenne’s L'école des ragovsts, ov, Le chef-d'oevvre dv cvisinier, dv patissier, & du confiturier : may be found through Google Books
 http://tinyurl.com/nl4ux9vat    See pages 382-383.

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