Molding mounds of ice cream. Ornamental bombes in the shape of lions, flowers, and towers recall the Victorian era. Lavish decorations graced everything from d'ecor to desserts
DESSERTS should add a little topography to your table,'' says Barbara Wheaton, culinary historian and authority on food of the Victorian period. ``Most of our food is served in flat containers and except for the occasional roast, it doesn't add much interest to the dining table.Skip to next paragraph
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``A tower of ice cream makes a happy ending to a meal, especially if it's ice cream decorated with fresh raspberries or candied rosettes or mounds of whipped cream,'' she says. In Victorian days, spun sugar was a favorite decoration. But that was a lot of work, and today's dessertmakers tend to garnish in simpler ways with fruits, nuts, and candies.
While packing chocolate ice cream into a bombe-shaped mold that's already been lined with chocolate cake, Mrs. Wheaton adds that she will later fill the center with Wild Strawberry or maybe Butter Pecan ice cream to finish this colorful dessert.
Mrs. Wheaton demonstrated the procedure for making ice cream desserts to newspaper food editors at a luncheon in the Mark Twain carriage house. The occasion was the introduction of nine flavors of ice cream, a new line for Pepperidge Farm, a company known for its bakery products.
Mrs. Wheaton talked about Victorian desserts and menus, including those served in Victorian days at the home of Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.
She explained that the Victorians, with their predilection for highly ornamental embellishment and design, set a style that has lasted long since Queen Victoria's reign, which ended in 190l. Today's revival of Victoriana includes food along with flowers, fashion, architecture, and furniture.
The handsome dining room of the Mark Twain House is an authentic example of the Victorian penchant for extravagant details. Designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the room often was the scene of splendid and lively dinners hosted by Samuel Clemens and his wife, Livy.
According to the memoirs of their maid Katy Leary, ice cream was a favorite dessert. ``We always had our ice cream put up in wonderful shapes, like flowers or cherubs, little angels -- all different kinds and different shapes and flavors and colors,'' she wrote.
As Mrs. Wheaton continued dipping ice cream and packing it into several kinds of molds, she told how to make unusual ice cream desserts, explaining why certain ones are called bombes.
``Ice cream bombes were originally round balls of frozen ice cream, shaped like military bombs,'' she said. ``Today a bombe is made of two different kinds of ice cream frozen in most any shape, but usually round, oval, or conical. My children like the ice cream molds with animals on top,'' she said indicating a mold with an incumbent lion on a rounded platform.
``This is an antique mold, but there's no need to buy special molds. There are undiscovered molds in every kitchen. Deep serving dishes such as casseroles, and mixing bowls can be used as well as old standbys like loaf pans.
``But consider the materials of your containers. For example, if using ceramic or tempered glass containers, be sure they can go from freezer to refrigerator to a basin of hot water. Copper molds, if well tinned, are excellent. Plastic is also good and inexpensive and can go from cold to hot temperatures.
``Don't be fooled by the mold measurement,'' she adds. ``If using a 1-quart mold, buy half as much again of the ice cream. You push out air as you pack in the ice cream and the texture changes.
Mrs. Wheaton's molds vary from the whimsical lion to spectacular towers. Most interesting were some contemporary molds of flowers, a lily and a rose, about five inches across that opened up in sections to make unmolding easy. These she made in vanilla ice cream, then placed them on a bed of fresh red raspberries.
``As for decorating, you really shouldn't think about good taste when you're doing something like this,'' she said as she lavishly embellished an already frozen ice cream lion. ``And don't worry about any little crack or crumble when removing the mold.