Cookbook road test: Mrs Beeton’s Homemade Sweetshop
One of my earliest memories is going to the post office, at the end of our road, with my mum. Not because I was fascinated with the Royal Mail but because the post office was stacked floor-to-ceiling with jars and jars of sweets and chocolates. Back then 10p would get you a long way and I’d always leave happy, with a bag of my favourites – foam shrimps, white mice, fried eggs, black Jacks and milk bottles.
When I first saw Mrs Beeton’s Homemade Sweetshop I was instantly transported back to those days of sugar-filled happiness. Instead of shelves, the pages invited me in with recipes for sherbet fruit drops, chocolate fudge, striped gummy worms and almond nougat. So many classic sweets for the home cook to try and make at home.
All of the recipes have been drawn from Mrs Beeton’s original Book of Household Management – a guide to running a household in Victorian Britain. The book was published in 1861 and, although she died in 1865, the book sold nearly 2 million copies by 1868 and it still remains in print today.
Mrs Beeton’s style, passing on information as clearly as possible, was hugely influential her day. Now her wise words of advice have been updated for the 21st century by chef, food writer, broadcaster and historian Gerard Baker. There is advice in the sweetshop book for working with sugar, which equipment to use and how to source different, and more obscure, ingredients.
What about the recipes?
Ah, the recipes – it’s like you can almost taste the sweets on your tongue when looking through the pages. The book is split into sections: boiled sweets and toffee, caramel and fudge, fruit, nuts, chocolate, and fondant, nougat and marshmallows. There is something to satiate everyone’s sweet tooth and the recipes vary in difficulty – from easy fruit and nut clusters to a more labour-intensive fresh raspberry marshmallow recipe.
The recipe test
Our lovely digital intern Sophie made the ever-so-simple salted caramels – a brilliant recipe to make and then give, in a pretty jar, as an edible gift.
Sophie said: “The recipe requires you to concentrate so make sure you have everything set out and ready to go before you begin.”
And her top tip: “Put the pan straight in to hot water after you’ve poured the caramel in to the tray to make washing-up easier!”
You can find the salted caramels recipe here.