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Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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France became one of the first countries to explore the possibilities of sugar when cheap supplies came flooding in from the Caribbean and South America at the start of the seventeenth century. French patissiers became the acknowledged masters of the art of cooking with sugar, taking over from the Italians. Le pastissier françois, published in Paris in 1653, was the first European cookbook devoted to pastry, clearly written by a pastry cook though the author is unknown. By midcentury a whole table at a banquet might be devoted to sweets, which also developed as a separate course to end the meal. The word “dessert” itself is derived from the French desservir, meaning to “clear the table of dishes” from the previous course. See dessert. It was in France that sugar specialties first emerged from the more day-to-day work of the patissier: glaces (sorbets and ice cream), confiserie (candies and petits fours), and travail au sucre (sugar sculpting), with a subspecialty in chocolaterie (chocolate work). Boulangers (bakers) had long plied their métier independently, baking in the four banal (communal oven) the wheaten loaves that were the staple food of the nation.