Baronial 12th Night - How to cover all kinds of Seeds, or little pieces of Spices, or Orange or Limon Pill, with Sugar for Comfits. The queen-like closet (1670)
Thomas Dawson lists comfets (comfits) as one of the "necessaries appertaining to a banquet".
How to cover all kinds of Seeds, or little pieces of Spices, or Orange or Limon Pill, with Sugar for Comfits. First of all you must have a deep bottomed Basin of Brass or Latin, with two ears of Iron to hang it with two Cords over some hot Coals. You must also have a broad Pan to put Ashes in, and hot Coals upon them. You must have a Brass Ladle to let run the Sugar upon the Seeds. You must have a Slice of Brass to scrape away the Sugar from the sides of the hanging Basin if need be. Having all these things in readiness, do as followeth; Take fine white Sugar beaten, and let your Seeds and Spice be dry, then dry them again in your hanging Basin: Take to every two pounds of Sugar one quarter of a pound of Spices or Seeds, or such like.
If it be Aniseeds, two pounds of Sugar to half a pound of Aniseeds, will be enough. Melt your Sugar in this manner, put in three Pounds of Sugar into the Basin, and one Pint of Water, stir it well till it be wet, then melt it very well and boil it very softly until it will stream from the Ladle like Turpentine, and not drop, then let it seeth no more, but keep it upon warm Embers, that it may run from the Ladle upon the seeds.
Move the Seeds in the hanging Basin so fast as you can or may, and with one hand, cast on half a Ladle full at a time of the hot Sugar, and rub the Seeds with your other hand a pretty while, for that will make them take the Sugar the better, and dry them well after every Coat. Do thus at every Coat, not only in moving the Basin, but also with stirring of the Comfits with the one hand, and drying the same: in every hour you may make three pounds of Comfits; as the Comfits do increase in bigness, so you may take more Sugar in your Ladle to cast on: But for plain Comfits, let your Sugar be of a light decoction last, and of a high decoction first, and not too hot.
For crisp and ragged Comfits make your decoction so high, as that it may run from the Ladle, and let it fall a foot high or more from the Ladle, and the hotter you cast on your sugar, the more ragged will your Comfits be; also the Comfits will not take so much of the sugar, as upon a light decoction, and they will keep their raggedness long; this high decoction must serve for eight or ten Coats, and put on at every time but one Ladle full. A quarter of a pound of Coriander seeds, and three pounds of sugar, will serve for very great Comfits. See that you keep your Sugar in the Basin always in good temper, that it burn not in Lumps, and if at any time it be too high boiled, put in a spoonful or two of water, and keep it warily with your Ladle, and let your fire be always very clear, when your Comfits be made, set them in Dishes upon Paper in the Sun or before the Fire, or in the Oven after Bread is drawn, for the space of one hour or two, and that will make them look very white.
1 tbsp. seed of choice (anise, fennel, caraway)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
To make smooth comfits you will want your sugar syrup heated to a lower heat, while jagged comfits you will need to heat your sugar to a higher heat. To make smooth comfits, I put the sugar and the water into a pot and then I heat it on low until the sugar has melted. At this point I heat the seeds in a large flat pan, similar to a wok or frying pan on low heat. If you can't comfortably reach into the pan and stir the seeds with your hand, then the pan is too hot.
Once the seeds are fragrant, and your syrup is heated take a teaspoon of it and pour it over the seeds in the pan. Using the back of a wooden spoon, (or your hand) stir the seeds until the sugar dries. If the seeds stick together, you have used too much syrup. If the sugar forms pellets in the bottom of the pan then you have used too much syrup.
The first few charges (coats) of the syrup the seed will look grayish, and then they will gradually begin to turn white. Continue to add syrup to your seeds until your comfits reach the size you want. They will lighten and whiten as they cool. If you wish to add color to your comfits add it to the syrup a few charges before your comfits reach the size you want.