The recipe for Lemon Puffs as it appears in The English Art of Cooking by Richard Briggs, printed in 1798.
I chose this recipe thinking it would represent Austen’s Fools. You know ─ the characters who seem all that is charming but turn out to be. . .well. . .not so nice. I thought the sugar could represent their charm and the sourness of the lemons could represent those parts of their character they wished to keep hidden. Little did I realize how this experiment was going to truly show me their characters.
I followed the recipe as it was written except for one small change. I found whipping the eggs and sugar by hand to be something I was not capable of doing for half an hour. Though I did persevere for more than half of that time, I finished the half hour using an electric hand mixer.
After the half hour of mixing, the egg and sugar mixture was thick but no overly so. I questioned the addition of three beaten eggs, but since the recipe said to add them, I did. Perhaps I had done something wrong, but my mixture became quite runny as I suspected it would. Still I continued. I dropped small drops on a parchment lined pan and baked them. The results were not unlike the Austen characters who seem so promising but leave disappointment in their wake. As the small drops baked, they ran together and flattened out…there was no puff in my lemon puffs. How disappointing!
They seemed to lack substance ─ does that sound like some of those rather shallow Austen Fools?
So what is a lady to do when met with such disappointment? Go looking for a Colonel Brandon, of course. Or in the case of my lemon puffs, search the kitchen for ingredients which might have been found in a regency kitchen.
- 3 1/2 t. baking powder (I do not know if they had this back then, and perhaps baking soda would have worked just as well or better since there was an acid, the lemon juice, in the batter already.)
- 1 1/2 c. almond flour
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
I then dropped the much more substantial batter onto parchment lined pans and baked. I wish I could tell you precisely how long I baked them, but I can’t since I forgot to set the timer, and the oven was accidentally turned off during the baking of one pan. My best guess is they took about 13 minutes to bake at 350°F. And, in the words of my dear husband who endured the grumbling that went along with this baking experiment, the results were “surprisingly delicious”─crisp on the outside and soft and cake-like on the inside.
This makes me wonder. . .can an Austen Fool be made into something less disappointing? Now there’s something to ponder while enjoying a lemon cookie with a cup of tea.