Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Mystique of Fairy Bread and Hundreds and Thousands

The Mystique of Fairy Bread and Hundreds and Thousands

By Naoto Suzukawa
The Spirit News
September 24, 2075

Fairy bread is sliced white bread spread with margarine or butter and covered with sprinkles or hundreds and thousands which stick to the spread. It is typically cut into four triangles. It is commonly served at children's parties in Australia and New Zealand. The origin of the term is not known, but it may come from the poem 'Fairy Bread' in Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses, published in 1885.

Nonpareils (or hundreds and thousands outside of North America) are a decorative confectionery of tiny balls made with sugar and starch, traditionally an opaque white but now available in many colors. Their origin is uncertain, but they may have evolved out of the pharmaceutical use of sugar, as they were a miniature version of comfits. The French name has been interpreted to mean they were "without equal" for intricate decoration of cakes, desserts, and other sweets, and the elaborate pièces montées constructed as table ornaments. The term nonpareil can also refer to a specific confection made using nonpareils, namely, flat discs of chocolate coated with nonpareils, which are also known as chocolate nonpareils.

An 18th-century American recipe for a frosted wedding cake calls for nonpareils as decoration. By the early 19th century, colored nonpareils seem to have been available in the U.S. The popular cookbook author Eliza Leslie suggests the use of red and green nonpareils for decorating a Queen cake, but strongly suggests white nonpareils are most suitable for pink icing on a pound cake in her 1828 Seventy-five Receipts for Pastries, Cakes and Sweetmeats. In 1844, Eleanor Parkinson, of a well-known Philadelphia family of professional confectioners, first published her book The Complete Confectioner, in which she described how to make nonpareils following her comfit-making procedure, which involved multiple hot pots and hot syrup.

In the United States, traditional nonpareils gave way for most purposes by the mid 20th century to "sprinkles" (known in some parts as "jimmies"), confections nearly as small but usually oblong rather than round and soft rather than brittle. Like nonpareils, their function is more decorative than gustatory as their actual taste is indistinct, and the products they are applied to are usually themselves very high in sugar. Candy-covered anise seeds called muisjes, sometimes mistaken for traditional nonpareils, are sometimes offered at breakfast in the Netherlands to be served on bread and butter. They are, however usually served on rusk to celebrate the birth of a child. This is known as "beschuit met muisjes". In the UK, Australia and New Zealand, nonpareils are known as "hundreds-and-thousands". In Australia and New Zealand, they are often eaten on top of patty cakes or on buttered bread as fairy bread, as festive items at children's birthday parties.

The term "nonpareils" can also refer to a specific confection: a round flat chocolate drop with the upper surface coated with nonpareils. This confection is also referred to as "chocolate nonpareils". Nestlé makes a variety marketed as Sno-Caps. In Australia, these confections are commonly known as "chocolate freckles", or simply "freckles". A common way of eating these in Australia is to lick the coloured top and place it to ones skin so when removed it leaves coloured dots or "freckles" as the name refers to. Nonpareils are also sold in the United Kingdom as "Jazzles", "Jazzies", "jazz drops" and "Snowies" (the white ones).