Thank you for 10K followers on Instagram! To celebrate I made 18th century ‘Chocolate Puffs’ from Richard Briggs’ The New Art of Cookery (Philadelphia, 1792).
Richard Briggs worked for many years as a cook at various taverns and coffee-houses in London. He envisaged his cookery book as a ‘complete guide to all housekeepers’, and refused to use ‘Language and high Terms on such Subjects’ that would ’embarrass’ and bewilder the ordinary reader.
In an expansive collection of sweet and savoury dishes, practical advice on gardening, brewing, and preserving, Briggs’ ‘Chocolate Puffs’ caught my eye. Made with just three ingredients, they turned out to be delicious: light, crunchy, chocolately bites!
Here’s the original recipe:
‘Take half a pound of double-refined sugar, beat and sift it fine, scrape into it one ounce of chocolate very fine, and mix them together; beat up the white of an egg to a very high froth, then put in your chocolate and sugar, and beat it till it is as stiff as a paste; then strew sugar on some writing-paper, drop them on about the size of a sixpence, and bake them in a very slow oven; when they are done take them off the paper and put them in plates’.
As well as reducing the quantity, to make 40 small cookies, I made a little adjustment to the ratio of sugar (which was a little too high for my tastes!). Here’s my adapted recipe:
- 200g caster sugar
- 40g cocoa powder (it works best with a high-purity unsweetened version)
- 1 egg white
- Give the sugar a quick blitz in the blender to make sure it’s super refined.
- Mix the sugar and chocolate powder in a bowl.
- Whisk the egg white until you get soft peaks.
- Beat the egg white with the sugar and chocolate until you have a thick paste.
- Wet your hands a little before making little penny-sized balls of the mixture on a lined baking tray.
- Keep the oven at a low temperature for 40 minutes to an hour.
Biggs’ chocolate puffs are listed among several ‘puff’ recipes, which are essentially forms of meringues. If you have any orange flower water lying around (like I do from all the historical cooking!), I’d recommend trying the ‘Almond Puffs’ recipe:
‘Blanch and skin two ounces of almonds, and beat them fine in a mortar with orange-flower water; take the whites of three eggs, and beat them to a high froth, then put in some powder sugar finely sifted, mix your almonds with the sugar and eggs, and then add more sugar till it is as thick as a paste; strew some sugar on a sheet of writing paper, lay it on in small cakes, and bake in a cool oven’.
You might also want to try the ‘Lemon Puffs’:
‘Beat a pound of double refined sugar, sift it through a fine sieve, put it into a bowl, with the juice of two lemons strained through a sieve, and beat them well together; then beat up the white of an egg to a very high froth, put it into the lemon-juice sugar, beat all well for half an hour, grate in the rind of two lemons, beat up three eggs and put in, and mix it well up; sprinkle some sugar on writing-paper, drop on the mixtures in small drops, and bake them a few minutes in a moderate oven.’
If you try any of these recipes, do let me know over on @historyeats!