Coloured cream fondants, peppermint creams, almond and walnut candies, surprise dates, and peppermint zoological animals may all be quite easily made in the nursery, and need only to be left to harden for an hour or two before they are ready to eat ! A box of these home-made bon-bons, prettily packed, makes a delightful Christmas or birthday present.
Peppermint essence, vanilla flavouring, cochineal, a few dates, and a couple of ounces of walnuts and shelled almonds will give the sweets all the variety one could possibly desire.
Break the white of the egg only into a cup, and give the yolk back to cook, for it will not be needed.
Pour the white into a soup plate, and add the spoonful of water before putting in the icing sugar, a little at a time, and stirring it well before adding more. Work in the sugar until the fondant is soft and pliable without being sticky. If it is sticky, add more sugar.
Next knead the fondant well, and divide it into three parts. Flavour one with vanilla, and colour it pale pink; flavour a second part with vanilla, but do not colour it; and add peppermint essence to the third.
If you want your sweets to be very exact as to shape and size, form each piece with the help of the knife into a long roll. Cut the roll into even-sized slices, and, having washed the hands and dusted them with sugar, roll each piece of fondant up into a ball. Make up the vanilla-flavoured pink and white on lant into balls first, and leave the peppermint until afterwards.
For the Surprise Dates, or French plums, open each fruit and take out the stone, and insert a tiny ball of pink or white vanilla-flavoured fondant in place of it, and fold the edges over again, so that just a glimpse of fondant is visible.
To make Peppermint Creams, press each ball of the peppermint fondant flat with the bottom of a wineglass which has been dipped in sugar to prevent its sticking, or they may be satisfactorily flattened with the thumb.
Work in the sugar until the fondant is stiff
For the Zoological Animals it will be necessary to roll the peppermint fondant, with the help of a small rolling-pin or a round bottle, to the thickness of a third of an inch. Then, with a fine steel skewer or a very narrow-bladed penknife, draw and cut out pigs, donkeys, goats, ducks, or any other animal you fancy, adding eyes, noses, etc., with the help of a quill pen dipped in diluted cochineal. To complete the party, Mr. and Mrs. Noah may be represented in the same way, after the fashion of gingerbread figures !
If the children have had any practice in brushwork and in modelling in plasticine at their kindergarten, it will delight them to be allowed to put their talents in this direction to practical account by modelling simple fruits and vegetables in almond paste, or " marzipan," as it is more elaborately called.
To make the almond paste, take a quarter of a pound of ground almonds, two ounces of castor sugar, two ounces of sifted icing sugar, a little orange-flower water, and the juice of a quarter of a lemon. Any small modelling tools should be well washed and then put in readiness to shape the sweets with when the paste is pronounced ready, or much can be done with the help of an orange wood stick or two.
Sieve the two sugars together and add them to the ground almonds, putting all into a small basin, and stirring them well together with a wooden spoon. Now moisten them with the strained lemon juice and about half a teaspoonful of orange-flower water, and knead the mixture together until it is quite smooth.
Divide it into three parts, colouring one rather a deep pink, one a pale green, and leave the third part its natural colour.
A pea-pod is an excellent thing to model first of all, for everyone knows what it looks like. The pod may be made from the un-coloured marzipan, and the peas of the green tinted paste. Pears, apples, and other objects may be made also, and if natural-coloured leaves are added the effect is splendid.
Excellent marzipan potatoes can be made by grating a little chocolate and rolling small balls of uncoloured almond paste in it until they are nicely coated, and then marking the eyes with the end of an orange-wood stick, or even a pointed match
Bonbons for the Nursery Table
For bonbons destined to adorn the nursery table for a children's party, dainty paper cases can be easily devised from sheets of plain white and coloured tissue paper.
Cut a number of two and a half inch squares of white and coloured paper, fold each in four, and, holding by the folded corner, draw the points through the fingers several times to crinkle them prettily.
Then partly open out each coloured square, putting a similar crinkled white paper inside each tinted one, and arranging them so that the four white points alternate with the four coloured ones. Place a sweetmeat in the centre of the cup this makes, and it is finished,
Another very dainty plan, which is specially suitable when sweets are to be packed up to send away as presents, is to cut strips four inches long and two and a half inches wide from a penny roll of light green, pink, or blue crinkled paper, and, having placed a similar sized strip of plain white greaseproof paper on top of each coloured one to make a lining, place a sweetmeat in the middle. Fold the two sides of the paper over it, and give the ends a tight twist in opposite directions - one to the right and one to the left. The little cases thus made should be finished off by tying a tiny bow of the daintiest baby ribbon round each twist.
Sweets packed up in this way keep fresh for a much longer time, as the grease-proof paper excludes the air; but they must be allowed to get quite hard before being packed up, or they are apt to stick to the paper.