Taking the account book along, she followed Madam Zou to visit Countess Jing’an for about ten minutes before returning to her Songtao Court.
She had plenty to do today. First, she had to make some snacks as return gifts for Lady Yang and the other ladies. She also had to find the time to practise her handwriting.
She had to start managing a whole restaurant soon, so she definitely had to make sure she could read traditional Chinese words. In the remaining time, she also had to look through Guilin Restaurant’s account book.
After reaching Songtao Court, she stored the account book in a safe place before bringing Xiyan and Jingyan with her to the kitchen. The ingredients for longevity peach buns were easy enough to prepare. Chu Lian noted that there was still a good amount of red beans left; an idea sparked off in her mind and she remembered the ‘Eight Confections’, a set of desserts from Beijing.
They were Beijing-styled desserts that had endured through years of history and variations. Back in her previous life, when Chu Lian had gone to Beijing to play, she had learned it from an old granny staying in the same block of apartments. For the sake of learning how to make an authentic set of Eight Confections, she had specially stayed there for half a month.
There were different variations of Eight Confections, namely the big, small, and fine variations.
They were called the Eight Confections because there were eight desserts in total, each with a different filling and shape. This was one of the most complicated desserts Chu Lian had ever made. However, the ingredients for Eight Confections were quite common. Even in the Great Wu Dynasty, she could still gather the eight different kinds of filling.
Chu Lian first taught Xiyan how to pound the red beans into paste. She then instructed Jingyan to wash the green plums and raisins, while she herself started making the dough.
When the confections were done, Xiyan and Jingyan’s eyes were about to pop out of their sockets.
Senior Servant Gui was waiting in the corridor outside the kitchen. From her hands, Chu Lian took some oval-shaped decorated bamboo baskets that she had ordered to be prepared earlier.
She walked to the table and smiled at Xiyan and Jingyan. “Watch carefully. I’ll arrange the desserts once, and I’ll leave the rest to you.”
Since she had to send gifts to quite a few houses this time, Chu Lian had made plenty of desserts.
There were kidney-shaped ones, fist-shaped ones, and even bat-shaped ones. She carefully placed them one by one into the bamboo basket before adding a freshly plucked peony that was in the midst of blooming. She scattered a few drops of water on the flower petals before putting it in an empty space inside the basket.
Thus, she finished arranging one set of Eight Confections.
The various flavours of desserts were arranged artfully in the exquisite little bamboo basket. They were already pretty by themselves, but since they all had crispy pastry skins made of flour, their colours looked a little uniform. Adding the vibrantly red peony made the arrangement of desserts a feast for the eyes.
The basket of desserts carried an elegant, subtle fragrance of flowers, hooking the appetite of anyone who looked at it, especially in this particularly scorching hot summer.
Jingyan’s eyes were as wide as they could possibly be. She gulped and mumbled, “Third… Third Young Madam, these are beautiful! This… This servant can’t bear to eat these.”
Chu Lian smiled before glaring playfully at her. “Remember, arrange the rest of the baskets like this. There are still plenty remaining; when you’re done, take some to try for yourselves too!”
When Xiyan and Jingyan heard that there was a share of desserts for them too, they grinned from ear to ear.
The desserts meant as return gifts were sent to Chu Lian once they were arranged properly. Chu Lian then picked out suitable packaging for them, placing black velvet on the insides of the gift boxes. She then put in the bamboo baskets and closed the lid. After that, she brought out the accessories she was going to return and placed them into suitably sized wooden boxes, which were all handed to the steward.
The steward sent out the more quick-witted manservants to each of the noble estates. They also passed on the message that there were desserts within the boxes that had to be eaten within the day.