The Sweet Makers ep.2

 Four modern-day confectioners use original recipes to recreate a Georgian shop and a stunning dessert course and discover how the quest to satisfy our national sweet tooth transformed Britain. Guided by food historian Dr Annie Gray and social historian Emma Dabiri, our 21st-century sweetmakers are in Bath to experience first-hand the life of confectioners in late 18th- and early 19th-century England - a time when the wealth from the sugar plantations of the Caribbean had made Britain rich and Bath's residents were making a fortune from the slave trade. They are now catering to the wealthy middle classes who could spend up to the modern equivalent of A £2,000 on a bespoke dessert course to dazzle their guests. Every dish the team make across four days in the kitchen forms part of the stock for their shop and this spectacular final course at one of the most famous addresses in Bath, the Royal Crescent. Our confectioners use period equipment such as Georgian ice chests, sorbetieres and beautiful pewter moulds, original recipes and authentic ingredients and create dishes that haven't been made, let alone tasted, for hundreds of years.


The four confectioners are Paul A Young, who runs two boutique chocolate shops in London, Cynthia Stroud, a bespoke wedding cake decorator, Diana Short, who owns her own chocolate company, and sweet consultant Andy Baxendale, whose first job in the industry was in the Chewitts factory. They each bring a unique set of skills and experience to the job - but they quickly come to appreciate the immense skill of their confectionery predecessors.

They discover how the art of the confectioner peaked in the Georgian era as wealthy customers and abundant sugar supplies from the plantations allowed them to experiment with all of the latest fashions from Italy and France. Andy blows sugar as chemistry catches up with confectionery, and they learn the Georgian trick of adding salt to their ice to freeze ice cream. Celebrity confectioners such as Domenico Negri, who ran the most fashionable shop in Berkeley Square, and Marie Antoine Careme, the man the royal family lured over from Europe for a vast salary, are their inspiration now.

While Dr Annie Gray is their guide to the unfamiliar recipes and ingredients - everything from the calves-feet gelatine for their eccentric bird's nest jelly to the parmesan ice cream they whip up by hand after bashing their own ice - Emma Dabiri helps the confectioners understand the vital role the sugar trade played in enriching the nation and the grim business of plantation life. Emma travels to Barbados to explore the legacy of our sugar obsession - and sees the slave lists of the men, women and children who worked at one of the oldest plantations in the Caribbean.

Back in Bath, the confectioners are visibly moved by a horrific account of the punishments given to those who interrupted this business. They are delighted, though, to learn about the first ethical revolt by consumers who supported the sugar boycott of slave-produced cane and the fight by abolitionists such as ceramicist Josiah Wedgwood, who successfully campaigned to end the British slave trade. The dessert course was delivered by confectioners to private homes and laid out with precision. It was a chance for the host to impress their guests and visual spectacle was key. But with so much money at stake, the pressure builds in the kitchen as they use all of the Georgian sugar skills to put together an incredible edible landscape inspired by Capability Brown. As they carefully place their marzipan base, sugared trees, spun-sugar waterfall and nougatine boulders, disaster strikes and the crystal lake cracks. Thankfully they manage to cover up the telltale crack and deliver the goods!

Annie and Emma are impressed with the incredible array of sugary dishes that the confectioners pull off, from parmesan ice cream to beautifully moulded chocolate and lemon ices, French bon bons to jellied fish in a pond and a jelly bird's nest. Everything the confectioners create is edible, including an extraordinary landscape centrepiece. The guests are delighted and the confectioners declare themselves in love with the elegant and playful Georgian age.

The Sweet Makers ep.2
The Sweet Makers ep.2