~ NINA ROWAN ~
TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE MISCHIEF has a Victorian chocolate shop in it, so here are some interesting facts that came up during research about sweets in that era and a recipe:
1. For much of the Victorian era, chocolate was often used as a restorative aid for people suffering from digestive difficulties. In 1855, J.S. Fry & Sons advertised their chocolate as “a fine stomachic, producing a healthy action on the biliary secretions, and a fine and clear complexion.”
2. Chocolate manufacturers and confectioneries prepared for the Christmas season well in advance. Ebenezer Roberts’ factory had furnace rooms, drying rooms, and chocolate refining rooms, with the second floor devoted to fancy packaging for Christmas and Easter chocolate boxes.
3. London confectioneries didn’t only sell chocolate — the shops were filled with jars of jam and marmalade, sugared nuts, cookies, cakes, and candied fruit. One particular Christmas speciality was the Twelfth Cake that marked the last of the twelve days of Christmas. The cake was an elaborately decorated fruitcake containing trinkets like a silver thimble or a ring. In some traditions, whoever found the trinkets became the “ruler” until Twelfth night was over, or the trinket was said to establish the receiver’s fate.
4. Methods of manufacturing and processing chocolate and cocoa were displayed at international exhibitions throughout the 19th century, with chocolate manufacturers from France, Belgium, Russia, Spain, Venezuela, Japan, Australia, the US, and Brazil all participating.
Awards were granted not only for the finest chocolates, but also the cheapest!
5. Christmas crackers became a big part of Victorian confectionery shop offerings during the holiday season. Though in TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE MISCHIEF, I had Darius invent the cracker, in reality it was invented by a sweet-maker named Tom Smith in 1847. He modeled the crackers after French bon-bons, which were sugared almonds and gifts wrapped in pretty paper. Tom Smith’s contribution was finding a way to use a strip of chemical paper to create a little explosion when the cracker was opened.
Here is a recipe from THE ART OF CONFECTIONERY: With Various Methods of Preserving Fruits and Fruit Juices; the Preparation of Jams and Jellies; Fruit and Other Syrups; Summer Beverages, and Directions for Making Dessert Cakes. Also Different Methods of Making Ice Cream, Sherbet, Etc. (1865)
CHOCOLATE AND VANILLA CREAM BON-BONS
2 oz of the finest picked gum arabic soaked in a gill of hot water About 2 lbs of the finest icing-sugar
4 oz of French chocolate
2 whites of eggs
A few drops of essence of vanilla
The soaked gum must be strained through a piece muslin into a basin, the essence of vanilla added to it and filled in with as much icing-sugar as it will absorb, work the whole into a rather stiff yet soft and elastic body. Dissolve the chocolate with about a tablespoonful water in the oven. Work this thoroughly smooth with a spoon, and incorporate it with two whites of eggs of royal icing.
Fill a biscuit forcer having a quarter inch tin tube adapted to it, with the white vanilla cream preparation, and push it out upon a large sheet of paper well dredged over with fine sugar; and as the contents of the forcer are pushed with the left hand, with a small knife held in the right cut off the white cream as it is pressed out in pieces size of small filbert-kernels: as each sheet of these drops is completed, place it on a baking plate for ten minutes in the screen, merely to dry their surfaces.
Next dip each of these white balls in the chocolate icing, holding one at a time upon the tip of a fork so as to be able to place it out of hand on a close-made wire tray; and when each is filled, set them to dry for about ten minutes in the screen; they may afterwards be put away between sheets of paper in a box.
‘Twas the night before mischief and all through the house, a lady was plotting—it was time to break out!
When Penelope Darlington is persuaded to elope with a most unsuitable suitor, she wastes no time. With visions of passion and adventure dancing in her head, she steals away in the middle of the night, just before her father’s Christmas feast.
Fearing for his daughter’s reputation, Henry Darlington begs Darius Hall, the Earl of Rushton’s daring yet discreet son, to bring Penelope home. When Darius finally catches up to Penelope, he is shocked. She’s not the silly little girl he expected, but a beautiful woman with a sharp mind and an allure that cannot be ignored.
Now forced to kidnap Penelope in order to bring her home, Darius and his new charge spend the next several days—and nights—in very close quarters. Penelope wanted passion and adventure, but she never could have imagined the pleasures Darius can provide…