Desserts around the world have come a long way since they were first made. Dainty versions of well-known desserts stand out in the windows of patisseries, and multiple flavor variations are experimented with to replace the standard chocolate and vanilla. Mirror glazed cakes, where one can see their reflection as they are about to take a bite of all those calories, have become the latest internet sensation. Hybrids such as the cronut are making their way into cafés and bakeries.Many desserts started as savory dishes and were only affordable by the rich. Some desserts did not even use sugar for sweetener, unlike the sugar laden desserts we have today, but all of these sweet treats that are loved today started somewhere.
Custard has been used as a base or filling for several desserts including crème brules and some ice-cream bases. It is also enjoyed on its own or heated and poured over warm puddings. It was the ancient Romans who first discovered that eggs could bind with other ingredients. They created several dishes from this discovery and either made them savory or sweet. However, it is generally accepted that it was in the Middle Ages that the sweet, creamy-textured custard we know today was created.The milk and egg mixture, which is heated to thicken, was used to fill pies and flans. This is also where the English word for custard comes from—the word “croustade” which means something with a crust or a pastry—as it would be used for fillings.When one is too lazy and does not have the patience to stand and whisk away at homemade custard to go with a shop bought sticky toffee pudding, there is always the convenience of custard powder. That is all thanks to Alfred Bird. Bird invented instant custard powder in 1837 when he decided to create an egg free alternative of custard for his wife who was allergic to eggs. He was also the inventor of baking powder.
As far back as 3000 B.C., ancient civilisations began flavoring crushed ice. It is believed to have started in Asia where it was served to the Emperors. Alexander the Great enjoyed eating snow with honey, and the Roman Emperor Nero had runners who would fetch snow to mix with fruits and juices so that he could enjoy the frozen treat. The difficulty in finding ice or snow, and maybe also the fact that not everyone had servants to go and fetch ice for them, made the dessert a very expensive food. It was not until the 20th century that sorbet, as well as ice-creams, became more available and cheaper for anyone who wanted them.
Imagine only being able to eat this buttery, crumbly biscuit on one or two occasions a year. Shortbread, which originated in Scotland, was an expensive treat that was usually had as a luxury by the non-wealthy for special occasions like Christmas and weddings. Today it is sold in abundance and is enjoyed all year round.Although shortbread is attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots, who during the 16th century enjoyed a version of shortbread called a Petticoat Tail, described as thin, crisp, and of course buttery, the shortbread we know today evolved from medieval biscuit bread from the 12th century. Leftover bread dough was usually rolled in spices and a bit of sugar and then baked at a low heat until it dried out into a form of rusk. At some point, the yeast in the dough was swapped out for butter (shortening), and that is how shortbread was first made. It was traditionally cut into three different shapes, “fingers,” “Petticoat Tails” (a large circle that is cut into triangles), and “shortbread. rounds” all of which are still used today.
Macaroons are often confused with macarons because of how some people pronounce the brightly colored macarons as macaroons. They look and taste completely different. However, they are very much linked in their origins.The origin of the macaroon, a crispy golden baked coconut cookie, began in Italian monasteries around the 8th or 9th century. It started out with what is now known as the amaretti. Bakers decided to get creative and swap out the almond paste for shredded coconut around the 1890s when the almond cookies were found to be too fragile for shipping. It was a very popular treat amongst Jews when it was created as it was flourless and unleavened, meaning it was a perfect treat for Passover. This led to further flavor adaptions of the cookie such as chocolate and coffee.