I tried my hand at an 18th Century cookie recipe today, and it turned out great!
The recipe is from Eliza Smith’s The Complete Housewife (that links directly to the recipe’s page – folks outside the US may not be able to access it). I first came across it in this video.
This is a very simple egg-leavened cookie. You start by combining the eggs and sugar and then gradually add the flour, then beat the batter to the ribbon stage (and it’s definitely more the consistency of cake batter than of cookie dough). Despite what the guy in the video says, this will not take an hour in a stand mixer. I let mine run for about ten minutes on medium to get it to the right consistency, and I probably could have stopped a minute or two before that. Even with a hand-held electric mixer it won’t take an hour.
Since it was going to be mixed so vigorously, I used cake flour instead of AP, and I added a little bit of almond extract, just for fun (I’m going for yumminess, not historical accuracy).
The recipe recommends doing a double-bake, in order to drive out the moisture and get a super crispy cookie, so after baking them at 400 F for about 4.5 minutes (the video suggested 5 – 6, but my oven runs hot), I let them cool completely while the oven cooled to 250 F, and then popped them in again for 10 minutes. The first bake goes really quickly, so you have to keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t brown.
They are great! They’re super crispy, but not hard, and they just melt in your mouth. I made little cookie sandwiches out of the ones I taste-tested, with some dulce de leche. Yum!
UPDATE: It occurred to me that these had a similar structure to lady fingers, so I decided to try them in a trifle. As far as texture goes, they’re spot on, but they are a little bland. I think next time I might add a pinch of salt to the batter just to give it a bit more depth, and maybe a little bit of lemon extract instead of the almond.