In making pastry or cakes, it is best to begin by weighing out the ingredients, sifting the flour, pounding and sifting the sugar and spice, washing the butter, and preparing the fruit.
Sugar can be powdered by pounding it in a large mortar, or by rolling it on a paste-board with a rolling-pin. It should be made very fine and always sifted.
All sorts of spice should be pounded in a mortar,except nutmeg, which it is better to grate. If spice is wanted in large quantities, it may be ground in a mill.
The butter should always be fresh and very good. Wash it in cold water before you use it, and then make it up with your hands into hard lumps, squeezing the water well out.
If the butter and sugar are to be stirred together, always do that before the eggs are beaten, as (unless they are kept too warm) the butter and sugar will not be injured by standing awhile. For stirring them, nothing is so convenient as a round hickory stick about a foot and a half long, and somewhat flattened at one end.
The eggs should not be beaten till after all the other ingredients are ready, as they will fall very soon. If the whites and yolks are to be beaten separately, do the whites first, as they will stand longer.
Eggs should be beaten in a broad shallow pan, spreading wide at the top. Butter and sugar should be stirred in a deep pan with straight sides.
Break every egg by itself, in a saucer, before you put it into the pan, that in case there should be any bad ones, they may not spoil the others.
Eggs are beaten most expeditiously with rods. A small quantity of white of egg may be beaten with a knife, or a three-pronged fork.
There can be no positive rules as to the exact time of baking each article. Skill in baking is the result of practice, attention, and experience. Much, of course, depends on the state of the fire, and on the size of the things to be baked, and something on the thickness of the pans or dishes.
If you bake in a stove, put some bricks in the oven part to set the pans or plates on, and to temper the heat at the bottom. Large sheets of iron, without sides, will be found very useful for small cakes, and to put under the pans or plates.