Chocolate Puffs are a sandy textured chocolate treat that will appeal to those with a serious sweet tooth–and they are also just a fun experiment in the food traditions of the past. I was sent a copy of The Hamilton Cookbook for the purposes of an honest review. Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing.
This was a fun book review! Laura Kumin, a blogging friend of mine (Mother Would Know) has written The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating, and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World, a must-own for any Hamilton aficionados, as well as anyone interested in food traditions of the past. The book is part history lesson, part adventure in 18th century food writing and part cookbook. After a few sections discussing Hamilton and the era he lived in, the book turns to recipes and for every recipe there is a photocopy of the 18th century text that the recipe was adapted from. So if you want to be brave, you can try figuring the recipe out for yourself! In the case of these Chocolate Puffs, the photocopy includes recipes for Almond Puffs and Lemon Puffs as well, and I am sorely tempted to try to adapt the Lemon Puff recipe to my modern kitchen.
The original 18th century recipe for these Chocolate Puffs lists half a pound of sugar to 1 ounce of “chocolate very fine;” Kumin interpreted that as unsweetened cocoa powder and changed the ratio of sugar to chocolate to 18:5, obviously much less sweet. I would say these Chocolate Puffs are as sweet as would be tolerable to an American palate, so I commend her decision, but honestly they were still too sweet for some of us. Now in fairness, my sister, Alex, myself, my mother in law, we are all people who prefer very dark chocolate desserts and can easily find things too sweet. So they were too sweet for us. But Sammy, my husband and my father in law for example? They liked them just fine. I am curious to know what would happen if the ratio was shifted more still, to say 3:1, and I am tempted to try in the future. Because the texture of these puffs is delightfully different and a fun addition to my holiday tray. They are kind of puffy (but not super puffy, although see the notes in the recipe for some tricks that might make them puffier), but what really stood out to me was their pleasantly sandy texture. Not quite a cookie (although I have listed them under cookies in my index), not quite candy, they stand out as their own thing.
Recipe shared with permission of publisher. From Kumin: These tiny sweets are a cross between cookies and candy. They are crisp, intensely chocolatey, and addictive.
- 18 T (1 cup + 2 tablespoons; 213 grams) superfine sugar
- 5 ¼ T (1/4 cup + 1¼ tablespoons; 28.35 g) unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch processed
- 1 egg white
- optional - pinch of cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 225° F/107° C. Set aside two parchment-lined cookie sheets.
In a medium-small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cocoa until they are a uniform color. Set the mixture aside.
With a hand beater, stand mixer, or clean whisk, whip the egg white until it is very frothy and beginning to stiffen. (When using a hand or stand mixer to whip egg whites, start at a low speed and slowly raise the speed to medium. Do not use the higher speeds because egg whites whipped that way are less stable.) If desired, add a pinch of cream of tartar to help the egg white froth and stiffen. Once the egg white reaches the soft peak stage, slowly add the sugar/cocoa mixture while continuing to beat the egg white. The result should be a thick paste.
Wet your hands slightly and form the batter into small coins about ¾-inches (2 centimeters) in diameter. Place them on the parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for 1-1½ hours.
Store the cookies in a tightly covered container.
In my email communication with the author, she also offered this advice after I had made the cookies:
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Laura, So glad you joined in the #HamiltonEats fun. I loved your description of the chocolate puffs and your family’s reaction. I do hope that you try the lemon version – you have made me curious too, as to what they’d be like. Also, I wonder what happens if you cut the sugar? Hmmm… back to the kitchen I go. Hope you and your family have wonderful holidays.