Tag Archives: opera cream

Opera to Aria, the Sweet Song of Cream

A constellation of cocoa, a meteoric flash of vanilla…

The Candy Book, referenced in a previous post, holds several of the confection  secrets I’m interested in unlocking. As for the book itself, the binding’s a bit tattered, and the fragile pages  are supple and soft from many years of wear.  I love scouting out the old and imagining it in the present, in books and in confection.

I can’t remember the first time I had Putnam’s Opera Creams as a child in Cincinnati; however, the luscious texture of the silky vanilla cream center as it oozed out against the bite, juxtaposed with its dark chocolate exterior has lingered indelibly in my memory as a seductive pleasure. I can still see the shimmery silver box.

Simple ingredients in alchemy. Sugar, cream, glucose, vanilla extract. What will they bring? I decided not to commit chocolate to the process until I knew the center was stable.

At least the recipe was standardized, the mixture cooked to 240 degrees. Vigorous beating and kneading alternated with active waiting and watching. The cooked mixture rolled successfully on a confectioner’s-covered surface. It scored. We, the opera cream and I, waited the requisite 24 hours for it to set.

IMG_6172

Enter the worst knife skill I’ve exercised in 30 years. Certain the proclivity for safety in knife handling was long ago put in place, I
IMG_6167took my eye off the ball [blade]. In trimming the scored mixture, I did the unthinkable… I motioned the knife toward me instead of away.

I had just had my knives professionally sharpened. The result was a slice (not an edge tap of the blade) out of the little figure on my left hand, which bled profusely.

The balance of the evening was spent in the ER. Three stitches. Big lesson.

So… the opera cream. Not quite as gooey as the opera cream of my youth, but equally tender and delicious. I believe the intention of the recipe was for the product to be cut and served individually. What I made makes a great center, but its delicate texture as a stand-alone confection is still a question mark.

An education on all fronts.

Confectionery Balance Brought Forward

Depositphotos_51227611_sKnowing my interest in quality confectionery of the past, a friend kindly let me page through two cookbooks from the early 20th century belonging to her grandmother.

Excusing the kid in the candy store metaphor, I found three recipes I can’t wait to work with.

Quality pics that truly represent these confections are rare.  Nonetheless, here’s a visual inDepositphotos_51227621_s narrative:

  • Cream Candy. Also, a family recipe of mine. The surprising juxtaposition of a cooked and pulled sugar-and-cream confection that melts in your mouth in a way no other candy does. Exacting to make. Provocative in texture; with a fineness of interior. Vanilla. Maple. Peppermint. Nothing like it in the marketplace.
  • Coconut Squares, Balls. The rich, chewy substance of coconut is refined with glucose and butter. Dipped in bittersweet chocolate. Delectable. The star of a dessert tray.
  • Opera Creams.  A Cincinnati influence is at work here. History says Cincinnati Opera patrons were treated to opera creams before performances. The velvety texture of soft vanilla cream is offset with dark chocolate of very high contrast and quality. It has no equal.

Each is more than worth the time, effort and patience required to refine and perfect. Experimentation in itself is pleasureful… shepherding ingredients into that which they can become.

Opera Creams

(reprinted as written from Lee’s Priceless Recipes, 1895)

Two pounds white sugar, 3/4 pint cow’s cream, boil to a soft ball; set off; add 2 ounces glucose; set on. Stir easy until it commences to boil, then pour out; let get 3/4 cold and stir it until it turns into a cream; then work into it 2 tablespoons vanilla; line a pan with waxed paper, flatten the batch in it, and mark it in squares. Set aside 2 hours to harden.