Ratafia Biscuits or Cakes were an easy, popular cookie that used whipped egg whites for leavening and that baked up very light. They were a type of Macaroon and derived their name from the flavoring used in them. The word Ratafia means a cordial or liqueur, but remains of uncertain origin. Eventually, it came to denote almost any alcoholic and aromatic ‘water’. Flavorings varied widely, from the original ratafia of Morello cherry kernels to such herbs as Angelica. Some ratafias were distilled, others were made by infusion of spices, herbs and fruits in brandy or eau de vie.
Since the Regency predated scheduled afternoon tea, these biscuits were often served during the dessert course of a dinner to offset other sweets. The Georgian favorite, Syllabub, was commonly accompanied by Ratafia Cakes or Macaroons and the recipe maven of the 18th C., Hannah Glasse, suggests that they be used in place of cake in Trifle.
Take 8 fl oz: apricot kernels, if they cannot be had bitter Almonds will do as well, blanch them & beat them very fine with a little Orange flower water, mix them with the whites of three eggs well beaten & sifted, work all together and it will be like a paste, then lay it in little round bits on tin plates flour’d, set them in an oven that is not very hot & they will puff up & be soon baked.
Martha Lloyd’s Household Book
340g (12oz)/ 1 ½ Cup Caster (fine or powdered) Sugar
225g (8oz)/ 1 Cup Sweet Almonds
110g (4oz)/ ½ Cup Bitter Ones
1 teaspoon orange-flower water or orange liqueur
4 Egg Whites
Blanch, skin and dry the almonds and pound them in a mortar with one egg white. Stir in the sugar and gradually add the remaining stiffly whisked egg whites. Pipe the mixture using a small biscuit syringe [piping bag] on to cartridge paper. Bake the cakes for 10 to 12 minutes in rather a quicker oven than for macaroons. A very small quantity should be dropped on the paper to form one cake, as, when baked, the ratafias should be about the size of a large button.
Time: 10 to 12 minutes.
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