Archive for the 'chocolate' Category

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Retronovated Recipes: Chocolet Puffs

A few weekends ago, I was awarded Best in Show at the Havemeyer Sugar Sweets Festival, a fundraiser for the City Reliquary. I was especially proud of my prize because the recipe that won, Chocolate Puffs, is one of my favorite creations.

I first came across the recipe for Chocolate Puffs in The American History Cookbook, an excellent resource by Mark H. Zanger that uses food to teach cultural history. That’s right up my alley.

The recipe, which is from a 1750s manuscript, is fascinating because it is “one of the first recipes in English for any use of chocolate other than drinking.”

Take a pound of Loaf Sugar, beat and Sifted very fine, 2 Ounce of Almonds blancht and beat very fine with a little Orange Flower water or any other, to keep them from Oyling, but not to make the same too thin, take 2 ounces of Chocolet and grate it, then mix it well together, the take the wfite of an Egg and beat it to a froth, if one be not Enough take a little more, then beat it well to a paste & Squert it, and do it on Slight paper and Set the same in an oven after Bread, of Chocolett Ditt it up a while but not for White ones, for fear of making them brown.

I realized this recipe was the perfect vehicle to try out the block of American Heritage baking chocolateI had picked up on my recent trip to Washington DC. American Heritage is chocolate produced by the Historic Division of Mars, Inc.

“The Historic Division of Mars was established in 2006, with the vision of becoming the undisputed leader in chocolate history. Our mission is to relentlessly pursue and share chocolate’s rich past, by creating authentically historic chocolate experiences that allow our consumers to enjoy the fusion of chocolate history and Mars Chocolate excellence.

It’s “Handcrafted chocolate made from an authentic colonial recipe…available during the 17th century.” I’m a huge nerd, so when I discovered that there was an authentic historic chocolate being produced, I was beside myself with excitement.

Early chocolate was produced sweetened cakes and sold as a spice. Until the later half of the 19th century, it was primary served as what we know of as hot chocolate. My block of American Heritage chocolate is about 5 oz of pressed cocoa, delicately spiced with anise, red pepper, nutmeg, orange and cinnamon. It seemed only fitting to feature the unique taste of this chunk of chocolate history in my recipe for Chocolet Puffs.

If I’m reading the Chocolet Puffs recipe correctly, it gives you an option of melting the chocolate before adding it to the whipped egg whites, but primarily advises you to simply grate it and stir it in to the meringue, much like you would use a spice. I searched for a comparable modern recipe to use as a jumping point for my baking process: I came across a wonderful recipe for Chocolate Meringues in Martha Stewart’s Cookies that stirred shaved chocolate into a Swiss meringue; a concept incredibly similar to my 18th century recipe.

Chocolate Puffs (1750s)
From a manuscript housed at Tyron Place, as published in the American History Cookbook.

Modern recipe inspired by “Chocolate Meringues” from
Martha Stewart’s Cookie Book.
4 large eggs whites
1 cup sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
Pinch of Salt
1/2 tablespoon Orange Flower Water*
1/4 cup grated American Heritage chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Combine egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, salt and orange flower water in a heat proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set in a double boiler. Cook on a low heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.

2. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment; beat starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes.
3. Gently fold in chocolate, taking care not to crush the meringue.

4. Transfer meringue to a pastry bag, or (like I did) a Ziploc bag with one corner cut off. Pipe quarter sized, “kiss” shaped cookies onto a non-stick cookie sheet, or parchment lined cookie sheet.

5. Bake cookies for two hours.

*Orange Flower Water can be found in Middle Eastern grocery stores; I live in an ethic neighborhood, so my local grocery store carries it, along with three different brands of Rose Water. It is a historic gastronomist’s paradise.


And that’s all there is to it. The process is time consuming, but simple. The results: a depth and intensity of flavor I would not have thought possible from these crispy, sweet little puffs.

Travelogue: Mt. Vernon

The Whiskey Distillery at Mt Vernon.

On day two of my travels in our nation’s capitol, I piled in the car with my friends Bryan and Katie, and made the drive to George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon.
It was a spectacularly beautiful fall day, and there was no where I would have rather been that driving along the Potomac with the windows down. The three of us lunched at the Mt. Vernon Inn, which offers “…six intimate dining rooms, two with fireplaces, all with colonial charm, colonial servers, and delicious regional and colonial cuisine.”

I had the “Colonial Turkey Pye,” (the “y” makes it old timey) which was ok, but unimpressive. I think the vegetables were from a frozen bag mix, and it had a giant Ritz cracker hat. Bryan had a cup of peanut soup, which I had tried before at the cafeteria at Gettysburg. I had liked it at Gettysburg, but here it tasted like warm peanut butter. Gross.
The main disappointment was that the menu had foods that could have been eaten in the 18th century, like roasted chicken and corncakes, but the foods weren’t at all different from what we eat today. There wasn’t even an effort to use spices appropriate to the 18th century. It’s dull; I never understood why “historic” restaurants never make the effort to offer interesting, delicious historic food.
We spent a few hours touring the grounds, and took a fairly boring tour of the Mansion itself. The house sees a high volume of visitors each year, and the staff handles this by scooting a continuous line of tourists along a velvet-roped route through the interior of the building, while reciting the interpretation for each space on a continuous loop. You would enter the room at the beginning of the interp, and leave approximately when it would start repeating. It was weird. One fact did catch my attention: Washington died suddenly of an inflammation of the throat, that suffocated him in 36 hours. I got a little freaked out when I felt a cold coming on a few days later.
Next, we went to Mt. Vernon’s second site which features a reconstruction of Washington’s Gristmill and Distillery. I had been looking forward to visiting the recently opened distillery for awhile, and it really was a treat. A knowledgeable interpreter talking us through the distilling process while we toured a truly beautiful building. I learned that in the 18th century, whiskey was made from rye, with a little corn. It was not aged; the entire distilling process took only two weeks before it was casked and sold. The liquor was clear, and our guide described it as tasting surprisingly sweet. Mt. Vernon will begin selling its whiskey sometime in the next year, and I am excited to try it when they do.
The gristmill was also neat, as gristmills are. Every time I stand before a spinning water wheel, and all those gears and grindstones, I’m impressed by human ingenuity. Who thinks of these things??

Looking down from the second floor of the gristmill, to the stream below.
I picked up a little souvenir treat for myself: a 5-ounce block of American Heritage Chocolate, a product of the Historic Division of Mars, that is made from an authentic Colonial recipe. I’m going to use it to make “Chocolet Puffs,” a receipt from a 18th century manuscript that is one of the earliest instances of chocolate being used in another manner than for drinking. If the recipe turns out well, they will be sold at The City Reliquary’s 1st Annual Haveymeyer Sugar Sweets Festival on Saturday. But more on that tomorrow.
See more images from my trip below.