Facts to remember when preparing hot desserts... from 1915
The choice of dessert is one of the most perplexing questions for the menu-maker to decide. In its proper function it is intended to make the meal more attractive and to complete it from dietary standards. It is the character of the dessert that is most likely to be disregarded. Too often a heavy dessert is added to a meal already high in food value just because we have acquired the habit of ending a meal with a sweet. It is important that the menu-maker have at her command a large number of ideas for desserts to enable her to maintain a proper balance in meals of widely differing nature...
Any liquid may be used as the foundation of gelatin desserts. Milk, coffee, cocoa, tea, milk partially thickened with eggs or starch, and fruit juices and syrups of various kinds offer an almost endless variety of combinations.
Gelatin should always be softened in cold liquid and then dissolved in hot liquid or over hot water.
A gelatin dessert should be just stiff enough when cold to hold its shape. If too heavy with gelatin it is rubbery and unappetizing.
The amount of gelatin depends upon the time that can be allowed for cooling, the temperature at which the mixture stands and the acidity of the liquid. Without ice, from twelve to twenty-four hours is necessary. With ice or in cold weather, gelatin mixtures will stiffen in from one to three hours, depending on the size of the mold. Increasing the gelatin decreases the time. A mixture containing the juice of a citrus fruit or tomato juice requires a third more gelatin than other mixtures.
Raw pineapple acts upon gelatin in such a way as to prevent it from solidifying. The difficulty may be avoided by cooking the pineapple before the gelatin is added.
A gelatin mixture which has thickened to the consistency of egg white behaves much like egg white when it is beaten - its texture and color are changed and it becomes what is called a sponge. The texture may be further modified by folding in beaten egg whites. If whipped cream is added to the sponge, it is called Bavarian cream.
The most important points to remember when cooking custard desserts are that the temperature must not be too high and the mixture must not cook too long. Baked custards should be set in a pan of water in the oven. Soft custard is most successfully made in a double boiler. It should be stirred constantly.
A custard is milk thickened with egg and sweetened and flavored in various ways. It is a popular dessert made in many forms.
Custard may be baked in the oven or cooked over hot water. The latter variety is called soft or "boiled" custard.
The consistency of a custard depends upon the proportion of egg to milk. One egg will thicken a cup of milk to make a thin soft custard or a custard baked in individual cups. For a thick custard or a custard that can be baked in a large mold more egg is necessary. A little cornstarch or flour may be substituted for part of the egg.
Blanc-manges are made with a liquid foundation, usually all or part milk, thickened with some form of starch. Cornstarch is most commonly used. Many variations are possible by the addition of different ingredients.
A blanc-mange requires at least fifteen minutes cooking after it has thickened, to make the starch palatable and easy to digest.
Two tablespoons of cornstarch to a cup of milk is the correct proportion for a plain blanc-mange that will hold its shape when molded and yet be delicate in texture.