Historic Recipe of the Month: Chocolate Macaroons

. February 6, 2015.
Chocolate-macaroons

Historic Recipe of the Month: Chocolate Macaroons

February is upon us – the shortest month, although in Michigan it seems long and cold. Valentine’s Day, however, breaks the month neatly in the middle, and cheers us up with its signature food: chocolate. There’s a long fascinating history of how chocolate came to be identified with love, seduction, and indulgence, from the perquisite of Aztec royalty, through the fashionable European beverage Dickens used to symbolize aristocratic excess, all the way to that heart-shaped box you may be thinking of buying.

Two great books on chocolate history are Michael and Sophie Coe’s groundbreaking True History of Chocolate and Marcy Norton’s Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures.

The first chocolate cake recipe in an American cookbook (as far as we know) is from 1847,  The Ladies Receipt Book, by Eliza Leslie, but it seems to be an isolated instance.  Brownies start to show up in American cookbooks in the ‘teens and ‘twenties, and that American classic, the Chocolate Chip Cookie, was invented by Ruth Wakefield at her Toll House Inn sometime in the 1930’s.

Historic American recipes for chocolate baked goods are much less intense than modern ones. Flourless chocolate cakes and dessert names like “Death by Chocolate” are a relatively recent development.19th and early 20th century American recipes for chocolate cakes and cookies are quite mild. Moreover, “Chocolate Cake” sometimes means a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

This month’s recipe, from Emma Frances Voris’  New Columbian White House Cookery, ca.1893, originally called for just three ounces of chocolate to a pound of sugar. Leslie’s book has a recipe for “Chocolate Puffs” with even less chocolate.

Ca. 1893 recipe

Chocolate Macaroons

Put 3 ounces of plain chocolate in a pan and melt on a slow fire; then work to a thick paste with 1 pound of powdered sugar and the whites of 3 eggs; roll the mixture down to the thickness of about one-quarter of an inch; cut it in small, round pieces with a paste cutter, either plain or scalloped; butter a pan slightly, and dust it with flour and sugar in equal quantities; place the pieces of paste or mixture, and bake in a hot but not too quick oven.

I increased the amount of chocolate in these, because I found the original proportions tooth-achingly sweet.

Modern interpretation

4oz unsweetened chocolate

1 lb. powdered sugar (~3 3/4 c before sifting)

3 egg whites, from large eggs

Preheat oven to 375°

Grease cookie sheets and sprinkle lightly with equal amounts of flour and granulated sugar.

Melt the chocolate in a large bowl over hot water

Beat the egg whites just enough to break them up

Let chocolate cool briefly and beat in egg whites

Sift powdered sugar, and beat it into the chocolate mixture to form a soft dough.

Form balls of dough 1 1/2t each. (A 1 1/2t scoop is perfect for these.)

Place on prepared cookie sheet, leaving 1 ½” between cookies.

Bake 11 minutes until puffed and set.

Let cool on baking sheets before depanning.

Makes about 75 cookies

For something more like the original, use only 3 ounces of chocolate, roll the dough out on powdered sugar ¼ “ thick, and cut with a 1 ½” or 2” cutter.

Chocolate also has health benefits, as this article from NIH, and this Q&A on chocolate from the Mayo Clinic explain.

Trending

Meet ZZvava

I’ve been writing for The Current for almost 10 years now…, which is crazy to think about. But I’ve known musician Jeffrey Freer for longer than that, from previous bands as well as some of his solo material. He was an Ypsilanti and an Ann Arbor regular for years, but moved away for a spell.

10 Best Venues for Live Music in Ann Arbor and Ypsi

Need to catch a great live show this summer? We’ve got the ten best local spots.

$2M Mystery: Crime Thrills in Mark Beyer’s First Novel

Terry Holbrook heads home from downtown Ann Arbor to Dexter after working his shift as a video editor. It’s a winter night. The highway is icy. The car ahead skids, then crashes. Terry, the everyman in author Mark Beyer’s new page-turner crime thriller, Hired Man, pulls over and rushes to the aid of the injured

Heathers: The Musical—Mean Girls Get Their Groove On

“Heathers”, the 2014 musical based on the 1989 movie starring Winona Ryder, will be presented by Ann Arbor Civic Theatre from June 7th-10th at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.