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Elizabeth Raffald’s Chocolate Puffs

September 21, 2010

Elizabeth Raffald deserves to be much better known than she is today. She crammed  so much activity into her 50 or so years of life (the average life span in the eighteenth century). Quite apart from having 16 daughters in the course of 18 years, which must be some sort of record, she was the housekeeper in various large houses, gave cookery lessons, was involved with a local newspaper, spoke French and most importantly, established the first Servants’ Agency in Manchester where she was living at the time. A northern lady, she was born in Doncaster, died in Stockport and in between lived in Salford and Manchester. Her ‘Experienced English Housekeeper’ was published 12 years before her sudden death.  The chocolate puffs are an example of a Georgian recipe which is really easy to make today but would have involved hours of patient effort back then

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Mrs Raffald's chocolate puffsThe little meringues do need to be made with a high quality plain chocolate, ideally one that is at least 70 per cent chocolate as this will offset the sweetness of the sugary meringue. The biscuits keep for ages provided that they are in an airtight tin and no one else in the house knows where they are hidden. Bar chocolate as we know it now wasn’t developed until Victorian times, so what was available was always used grated and was bitter to taste.

Line a couple of tins with non stick baking parchment which is tidier and easier to use than rice paper. Drop only teaspoon size spoonsful of mixture, well apart, onto this as they will spread and become ungainly if too big.

Ingredients:

1 large free range egg white at room temperature

4oz. caster sugar

1 oz, finely grated dark chocolate

Use a mixer to whip the egg white until very stiff. Slowly add the sugar whilst beating, then the chocolate. Although the mixture will soften and become runny, ensure only small amounts, well spaced, are spooned onto the parchment. These would have been put into a cooling oven at the end of baking as they are supposed to dry out rather than bake. For a modern oven, use the lowest setting, ideally about 100/110c or gas 1/4. They will take about an hour to set firm and crisp. Although they will usually come off the baking parchment easily once they have cooled, it’s best to make sure, using a round ended knife to lift them cleanly. They are useful to decorate other sweets, to serve instead of mints with coffee or to make around Christmastime as they can be fished out and served to unexpected visitors.

One disadvantage of overlarge airbubbles in the raw mixture. The finished puffs are fairly fragile and need storing in layers
A cautionary tale: crater like surface caused by overlarge bubbles

A cautionary tale: crater like surface caused by overlarge bubbles

I have included the second photo as a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when these are made in a hurry and not stored with sufficient care. You have been warned!

From → Food, georgian food

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