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The degrees of boiling sugar are variously divided by different cooks.
Some give six and others as high as eight. The Stench boil sugar for nearly all their desserts. For all practical purposes a cook need understand only three stages. Put one cupful of granulated or loaf sugar and half a cupful of water on to boil. When the mixture has boiled fifteen minutes, dip the fore-finger and thumb in cold water and take up a little of the syrup between them. If, upon drawing them apart, the syrup forms a thread, it is at the second degree. This is the best stage for frozen fruits, sherbets, and preserves.
If, a little later, when some syrup is taken up with a spoon and blown hard, it flies off in tiny bubbles, it is at the fourth degree, called the _souffle_. It takes about twenty minutes' boiling for this.
The syrup is then used for _biscuit glace_ and various kinds of creams. At this stage it also gives sherbets and fruits a much richer flavor than when used at the second degree.
If, when a little syrup is taken up on the point of a stick or skewer, and dipped in cold water, it breaks off brittle, the sixth degree has been reached. This is the stage where it is used for icing fruit and cake, the dish being called fruit _glace_ or _gateau glace_.
The syrup must _never_ be stirred, as this will cause it to grain. Great care must be taken that it does not boil after coming to the sixth degree, as it burns quickly after that point is reached.
To Make and Use a Pastry Bag.
Fold a piece of strong cotton cloth (perhaps a foot square) from the opposite corners, so as to give it a triangular shape. On one side sew together the two edges, thus making a bag shaped like a "dunce's cap."
Cut the cloth at the apex just enough to permit a short tin tube, somewhat like a tailor's thimble, to be pushed through. The tube for eclairs measures about three-fourths of an inch at the smallest opening; that for lady-fingers is three-eighths of an inch, and that for meringues and kisses, half an inch. The tubes for decorating with frosting are very small.
Fill the bag with the mixture to be forced through, and gather the cloth together at the top with the left hand. Hold the point of the tube close to the pan on which the mixture is to be spread. Press the mixture out with the right hand. If the cakes are to be large use a good deal of pressure, but if to be small, very little will do. At first, it will be hard to get the shapes, but with a little practice it will seem comparatively easy.
To Make Paper Cases.
This is not difficult, if one will carefully study for a moment the diagram below and the directions following:
Cut the paper on the dark lines--(there are _eight_).
Crease on every dotted line.
At each end turn the parts lettered A over that lettered B, so that the lines _c_ rest on the line _d_, and one A overlaps the other.
Fold the parts B up against the backs of the parts A.
Fold inward those parts of the edges which are lightly shaded, and fold outward those which are heavily shaded.
Stick the parts of the box together with the white of an egg mixed with a little flour.
Remember that it is a box that is to be made, and after the first two steps it may be easy to guess how to complete the work. By tracing a copy of the diagram one obtains a good model one quarter of the size the case should be; that is, the square should be five inches on a side instead of two and one-half. After experimenting with this the shape may be varied to suit the taste. Stiff white paper should be used. Cases can be bought of restaurateurs. They are used for _biscuit glace, biscuit souffle,_ and other dainties.
Larding is a simple operation. The pork should be firm and young (salt, of course). Cut thin, even slices parallel with the rind, and cut these in long, narrow strips that will fit into the needle. For beef, veal, turkey or chicken the strips should be about as large round as a lead pencil, and about three and a half inches long; and for birds, chops, and sweetbreads they should be about as large round as a match. Three slices are all that can be cut from one piece of pork, because when you get more than an inch away from the rind, the pork is so tender that it will break when in the needle.
Put the strips in a bowl of broken ice, to harden. Have the meat, if beef or veal, free of skin and gristle. Put a strip (also called a lardoon) into the needle as far as it will go. With a skewer or knife draw a line on both sides of the meat and along the upper part. Thrust the needle into the meat at one of the side lines; and when it is about half way through to the top of the piece, press the steel slightly with the thumb and fore-finger, to hold the lardoon in place until it has entered the meat. Now push the needle through to the top, and gently draw it out, leaving about three-quarters of an inch of the strip exposed at both the side and upper part of the meat That part of the pork which is hidden should be half an inch under the surface. The needle's course is as if it started under the eaves of a gable roof and came out at the ridge-pole. Continue until all the rows are filled with lardoons. Two rows are enough for a fillet of beef. If the strips are too large for the needle they will be pressed out as soon as the lower part of the needle enters the meat.
The meat and vegetables for stews should, when it is possible, be browned in a little fat, and hot water should then be added. As soon as the stew comes to the boiling point, skim it, and set back where it will just simmer, not boil, the given time. The pieces of meat in a stew should come to the table whole and tender and juicy, and they will be in this condition only with _slow_ cooking.
Braising is one of the best modes of preparing meat. There are pans expressly for braising; but any deep tin, sheet-iron, or granite-ware pan, with a cover, will answer quite well. The meat to be cooked must always be browned in some kind of fat, the vegetables fried in the same fat, and enough stock (if possible) or water be added to half cover the meat. The pan should then be covered and placed in the oven.
The meat must cook _slowly_ and thoroughly, and be basted frequently. No matter how tough, if properly braised it will become tender and juicy. If, however, the cooking is hurried the dish will be spoiled.
There are two modes of frying. One is to have just enough fat to prevent the article from burning or sticking; and the other is to have enough not only to cover the food, but to float it. The latter is by far the better way, as all the surface of the article is instantly hardened, and, therefore, will not absorb fat. It is also the cheaper way, because the fat can be used so many times. If the drippings saved from meats, soups and gravies should not be enough for frying purposes, buy pure lard to use with it. Many recommend buying beef suet for this same purpose; but food fried in suet is more liable to absorb fat than that fried in lard. The reason of this is that lard can be heated to a higher temperature without burning than can beef or any of the other fats. b.u.t.ter is also often recommended for frying. If used, it should be free of salt. But aside from being so expensive, it is not so nice for frying purposes as fats, for it burns at a much lower temperature than either beef fat or lard. The Scotch kettle is the _best_ utensil for frying. It rests on a rim, which lifts the bottom from the stove, and the inside surface is polished very smooth; therefore, the fat is less liable to burn than if the surface were rough and the bottom rested on the hot stove. The fat should heat gradually; and when the food is plunged into it a slight smoke should rise from the _centre._ It will smoke at the sides some time before it has become hot enough for frying. After the food has been put in, let the kettle stand on the hottest part of the stove until it regains its former temperature, and then set it back where it is not quite so hot. In frying fish-b.a.l.l.s, doughnuts, etc., put only a few at a time in the boiling fat; then wait a few moments for the fat to regain its former temperature, and put in a few more. Fish-b.a.l.l.s are often spoiled by the putting of a great many in the kettle at once.
The temperature of the fat is instantly reduced, and the b.a.l.l.s absorb the fat. When an article of food is fried, drain the fat from it, and lay it on a sheet of brown paper in a warm pan. The paper will absorb any fat that may remain on the food. As soon as you are through frying, take the fat from the fire, and when cooled a little, strain it, (See the chapter on the Care of Food.) If the directions given are followed, there will be no difficulty in having food fried without its being saturated with grease.
The dishes on which meats, fish, jellies and creams are placed should be large enough to leave a margin of an inch or so between the food and the lower edge of the border of the dish.
It is well to pour the sauce for cold puddings around the pudding, especially if there will be a contrast in color.
It is a great improvement to have the sauce poured around the article instead of over it, and to have the border of the dish garnished with bits of parsley, celery tops or carrot leaves.
When sauce is poured around meat or fish the dish must be quite hot, or the sauce will cool quickly.
Small rolls or sticks of bread are served with soup. Potatoes and bread are usually served with fish, but many people prefer to serve only bread. b.u.t.ter is not served at the more elegant dinners. Two vegetables will be sufficient in any course. Cold dishes should be very cold, and hot dishes _hot._
It is a good idea to have a dish of sliced lemons for any kind of fish, and especially for those broiled or fried.
Melons, cantelopes, cuc.u.mbers and radishes, and tomatoes, when served in slices, should all be chilled in the ice chest.
Be particular not to overdo the work of decorating. Even a simple garnish adds much to the appearance of a dish, but too much decoration only injures it. Garnishes should be so arranged as not to interfere with serving.
Potato-b.a.l.l.s and thin fried potatoes make a nice garnish for all kinds of fried and broiled meats and fish.
Cold boiled beets, carrots and turnips, and the whites of hard-boiled eggs, stamped out with a fancy vegetable cutter, make a pretty garnish for cold or hot meats.
Thin slices of toast, cut into triangles, make a good garnish for many dishes.
Whipped cream is a delicate garnish for all Bavarian dreams, blanc- manges, frozen puddings and ice creams.
Arrange around jellies or creams a border of any kind of delicate green, like smilax or parsley, or of rose leaves, and dot it with bright colors--pinks, geraniums, verbenas or roses. Remember that the green should be dark and the flowers small and bright. A bunch of artificial rose leaves, for decorating dishes of fruit at evening parties, lasts for years. Natural leaves are preferable when they can be obtained.
Wild roses, b.u.t.tercups and nasturtiums, if not used too freely, we suitable for garnishing a salad.
BILLS OF FARE.
What to set before guests at the table, or, indeed, before one's own family, is sometimes a perplexing matter for housekeepers to decide, and a few bills of fare are given on the following pages as an aid.