Sweet Dreams


Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash

Experienced confectioner offering private
sweet making classes to individuals and
small groups. No experience necessary.
Ingredients provided. £20 per person.
Call Rosina on 01267 348799

In their simplest form, sweets are made from just sugar and water. Heat is key. 115°C for caramel. 120°C for fudge and fondant. 125°C for nougat and marshmallows. 140°C for butterscotch and taffy. 150°C for nut brittles and seaside rock. But there’s one key ingredient you need to make a childhood favourite, to craft and mould sugar coated squares of orange bergamot or rose. To create the perfect squidge of Turkish Delight - Gelatine.

Making gelatine is a laborious task. You need animal bones. Skin. Tissue. Be sure to discard of any rotting flesh and boil for several hours. Remove from the heat and allow to set for 24 hours. A layer of fat will rise to the surface, skim this off and discard. Add flavourings or sweeteners to the liquid and allow to set again. It’s beneficial to befriend your local butcher or abattoir.

A permanent veil of icing sugar coats every surface, every jar, utensil and pinafore. Cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger cling to net curtains. She used to be friendly with the local abattoir, but the presence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was reported in 1989 and she hasn’t returned since.
Two-day-old pans sit on top of a butcher’s block, its surface a marbling of violet, cobalt blue, sulphur yellow, blood red – flaws from over enthusiastic elbows. The shelves beneath overflow with bundt tins, jelly moulds and copper pans and a sugar thermometer hangs from a rusty hook. Aged hands brush a kitchen table and wrinkled lips blow the last of the sugary dust to the floor. She places a trifle on a scalloped edge cake stand and dots its creamy surface with gumdrops. Their coating catches the light from the window.
Her kitchen table is adorned with the sweet treasures of her craft. Palma violets - they taste of her grandmother. Sugared almonds - pastel favours for the wedding she never had. Toffee bonbons - the reason she has no back teeth. Stained glass windows of sugar, and candy cane door frames wait for fondant foundations and pinwheel tiles. A large pot of tea steeps next to a lineup of sugared mice and a preserving jar takes centre stage, part filled with a jelly like substance the colour of custard. The luggage label tied around it reads - GELATINE.
Two places are set at the confectioner’s table, each with a silicon mat, spatula and scalpel. Any free space has been filled with a pick and mix of porcelain bowls, full of orange juice, sugar, rose water, cornflour and red food colouring. Today’s lesson - Turkish Delight.
She dismisses a ginger tom cat with a boney poke and takes its seat at the kitchen table, glancing at the clock on the wall. The cat pads over to a broken china plate, leaving a path of delicate tracks on the sugar coated tiles. It picks at pale, stringy scraps of meat. A fly lands on a tacky yellow strip hanging from the ceiling light, buzzing with the shock of imprisonment. She catches the smell of the pans, puts them under the sink and places a plastic caged air freshener in the window.
A cast iron pot sits over an open fire in view of the small, wood cabin. Shrouded in a woolen blanket she shuffles down the frozen steps, and crouching under the cabin, pulls out a black bin liner, damp with leaf litter. She grabs a handful of lace, cotton, check and polka dots and continues her journey to check for the boil. Small bubbles gather at the base of the pan. She throws the scraps of clothing onto the fire.
The cat raises its head as she walks back into the cabin and watches her sit on the chair. She snatches another look at the clock. As a confectioner she prizes herself on her timekeeping, a degree or two out and your creation is ruined. Flour encrusted nails tap tap tap at the table. She readjusts the mice and waits.

The rumble of tyres wakes her with a snort. She removes her yellowed pinafore, wipes at the saliva in the corners of her mouth and brushes down her black skirt. As she passes the teapot she places the back of her palm against it to check it’s still hot and, with a clap of her hands, she opens the door and greets her guests with a curtsy and a sugared mouse. ‘Good morning, my dears. I’m Rosina. Welcome to my cabin of confectionary.’

The fire has long since burnt out. The evidence of her workshop activities scrubbed clean and the trays of Turkish Delight perfectly set in the fridge. Rosina was impressed with her pupils; they really will make incredibly good sweets. She holds a ditzy floral dress to her chest, too small, but perfect for a new pinafore. Taking a seat at the table, she writes on a new luggage tag while the cat plays with its string.

Strong spices can’t mask all smells. No amount of bleach and scrubbing can keep away the flies. She prefers the faint odour of mildewed curtains and forgotten pots to the current fragrance of boiled flesh and bones. She tickles the cat’s chin and with a gummy smile and a pink square of delight in her mouth, places the jar in the fridge. The newest labeled with today’s date and the word GELATINE.

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