Thursday, April 19, 2018

Puffets: 19th c. Maryland Small Cakes

Puffets
The Original Recipe


Recipe Provenance
This recipe comes from The Sarah D. Griffen, Clyde Griffen, and Margaret Thibault Collection of Goldsborough Family Papers at the Maryland State Archives. It dates to the mid-19th century.

Recipe Transcription
Puffets
2 pints of flour, 1 pint of milk, 2 eggs, a piece of butter the size of an egg, 1 teaspoon of soda in the milk, two of cream of tartar in the flour.  Beat the butter and eggs together, add the milk and flour.

About the Recipe
For some reason, I have been drawn to recipes that puff lately. Maybe it's because I enjoy science in the kitchen. The name of this recipe, puffets, indicates that these small cakes were meant to puff up during the baking process, and they do thanks to chemical leavening agents which revolutionized baking in the 19th century. 

An early version of baking powder (where the acid and the alkaline are mixed together in one product) is represented in this recipe by the inclusion of baking soda (the alkaline) and cream of tartar (the acid). An early version of this type of chemical leavening agent combination was sold in sets of the ingredients and were called "yeast powders." These sets were accompanied by instructions for how to use them. Interestingly, in these recipes, the soda is mixed with the milk. This is a carry-over from the days when pearlash and saleratus, the potassium-based alkaline products that preceded sodium-based alkaline products, were required to be mixed with the milk to reduce their bitterness. When using sodium bicarbonate, this step can be skipped and the soda can be whisked into the flour; however, I kept the recipe as is.

While the puffets are very rich and moist, they could use a little flavoring. You can add any spice or flavoring, such as lemon zest, to give them a more interesting flavor. Or, make them as is and serve them warm with lots of butter, jam, or honey. 

Modern Recipe Adaptation: Puffets
Yield: 24 Cakes

Ingredients:
  • 16 Ounces Stone-Ground Whole Wheat Flour or Any Cake Flour, About 3½ Cups
  • 2 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar
  • 2 Cups Milk
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 4 Ounces Salted Butter, Melted
  • 2 Eggs
  • Grated Zest from 1 Lemon, Optional 


Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 375ยบ F.
  2. Grease two 12-cup muffin pans.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and cream of tartar.
  4. In another bowl, mix together the milk and baking soda, and then add the melted butter, eggs and lemon zest.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin pans.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean when removed.



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