[Sca-cooks] Comfits Revisited

Elise Fleming alysk at ix.netcom.com
Fri Jun 1 04:26:06 PDT 2007

Greetings!  Stefan had written regarding the temperature of the sugar syrup:
>Why did you raise the temperature? Was this a trial and error sort of 
>thing? Or did you find some medieval description or recipe that lead 
>to this?

I had responded quickly that I hadn't raised it but had lowered it.  I
missed the last part of his questions.  The sugar temperature is hinted at
in most of the recipes.  Various terminology is used - a light decoction,
until it streams like turpentine, and so on.  Plat says "For crispe and
ragged comfits, make your sugar of a high decoction, euen as high as it may
runne from the ladle, and let fall a foot or more from the ladle, and the
hotter you cast in your sugar, the more ragged will your comfits bee." 
Part of my choice of temperature was from Ivan Day's feedback.  I'd brought
some samples of the comfits my friend and I had made - and were so proud
of!  We were pleased at how smooth they appeared.  Ivan's comment was "Oh,
so you've made ragged comfits."  To me they looked smooth - until I got
back from England and tried another batch using a lower temperature, less
sugar, and more patience.  This new batch is much smoother, although I can
still see a little bumpiness.  No wonder Ivan thought our earlier attempt
was "ragged".  In the class I took from him this year we did comfits again
and I queried about the temperature.  He showed me how to test the degree
of sugar by dropping a bit of syrup onto a plate, dipping my finger into it
and then pressing thumb and finger together.  A very short thread should
appear when the fingers are pulled apart.  So, in a sense, I'm going
through trial and error - plus additional information given by Ivan who has
made hundreds of pounds of comfits over his career and has based his work
on descriptions in comfit recipes up through the 1700s.

I got some additional hints on candying almonds and will be trying that
out.  The sugar coating kept melting off my first attempts.


Elise Fleming
alysk at ix.netcom.com

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list