The dessert in this country includes the sweet dish, or the fruit at the end of the meal. In simple meals the dessert is usually one of the two, although in more elaborate meals fruit is served after the sweet dish, and sometimes crackers and cheese are served at the last. From the point of view of nutrition and digestibility this is more than is necessary, and you will notice that when both are served, the fruit is often declined. Like the salad, the dessert may be made from a large variety of materials and bears different names. There are hot puddings and cold puddings, pies and tarts, jellies and ices and ice creams. It is very interesting to read over the many dishes of this class in a cookbook and to attempt to classify them. If you are fortunate enough to have access to a cookbook of the eighteenth century, you will find that much labor was given to the preparation of elaborate structures which served as table ornaments; even now you will find French cooks who spend much time in making elaborate displays of their skill. For everyday life the dessert should be attractive to the eye and yet simple. Materials used in desserts.

Eggs, milk, and cream; these are important and are used in custards, in dishes stiffened with gelatin or thickened with cornstarch, or in ice cream.

Breadstuffs

Cake and sponge cake, bread crumbs and sliced bread, are valuable in desserts. Bread pudding may be made a very delicious dish. Bread may be combined with fruit in the shape of an escalloped dish. Baking powder biscuits, crust, and short-cake are also used.

Other Starchy Substances

These are cornstarch, arrowroot, sago, tapioca and manioca.

Fruits

Raw and cooked fruits of every possible kind. A few fruits like the lemon, orange, grapefruit, and melon are not cooked. For preparing fruit served alone, see Chapter VI (Fruit And Its Preservation).

Gelatin

This material has been mentioned in the chapter on meat. It is prepared for use in desserts in a number of forms, the granular being the most convenient. Gelatin has the property, first, of absorbing water, then of dissolving at the boiling temperature of water and becoming stiff again when cool. After dissolving, as it is cooling and just as it begins to thicken slightly, it can be beaten like white of egg. If beating is attempted while the liquid is warm, or again if it becomes too stiff, the result is not successful. This property makes it useful in the sponges and other fancy desserts where the light spongy texture is desirable.

Making Desserts Attractive

This is done by serving hot desserts in a dish around which a napkin may be folded ; and cold desserts, especially those made with gelatin, may be molded in some attractive form and garnished. Figure 69 shows a very simple gelatin dessert garnished with candied cherries and a little angelica, the stem of a plant which has been sugared, and the whole surrounded with whipped cream.

Fig. 69.   A gelatin mold.

Fig. 69. - A gelatin mold.

Whipping the cream and putting it around the base takes only a few minutes. As in salad, the garnish should be eatable and easily prepared.