Photo: Elizabeth Smith Miller's 1875 cookbook "In The Kitchen" cover
By Amanda DiRobella and Silda A. Wall Spitzer
Did women suffragettes boycott the kitchen? For at least one — the gal who decided to wear the pants (well, pantaloons at least), Elizabeth Smith Miller — she not only cooked, but wrote a cookbook, In The Kitchen, in 1875 that met with wide success. On the one recipe we tried, the jury is still out!
March is Women's History Month! Read on our Magazine: "Researching Women's Past and Present? Head to the Finger Lakes" written by Kathleen Willcox.
Elizabeth Smith Miller’s Maple Cream Chocolates recipe seemed perfect for this sap-flowing time of year — seemed being the operative word for us. (We have left ESM’s language as originally printed and added New York Makers’ commentary in parentheses and italics; yes, her recipe was written as one sentence!) The result was not bad, but not the delicacy we had been expecting. Perhaps our years of enjoying smooth, chewy chocolates, along with the name of the recipe — “Maple Cream Chocolates” — did not prepare us for the more grainy, sugary consistency of these treats or their intense sweetness. They are definitely best made as marble-sized bites. For us, adding a pecan/walnut at the center of each ball made for less than perfectly rounded shapes, but definitely balanced out the flavor.
"Maple Cream Chocolates" recipe from "In The Kitchen" 1875
Although our technique improved as we learned how to work with the boiled and thickened maple sugar candy, our first taster commented that the result reminded him a bit of animal poop…and that the image of Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory came to mind.
Given this is our third disappointing effort making a recipe — following quark cake and caramel apples — perhaps the issue might rest also with us cooks. We are not professionals for sure; we just find it really fun to try new things! Sometimes we estimate. Sometimes we substitute with what we have. On this one, we actually said out loud, “Don’t drive yourself crazy with the conversions.” Everything we make is edible — even delicious — though it does not always look beautiful. Maybe you have the same experience, sometimes. One way or the other, we enjoy sharing the adventure with you and will be honest about how things turn out! We joke about writing “The Bad Cooks Book”...
In case you think you can do better (ours were quite tasty):
Maple Cream Chocolates
Half a pound (1 cup) of maple sugar (We used Crown Maple maple sugar, no need to “crack” since it comes granulated.)
Quarter of a pound (1¼ ounce) of Baker’s chocolate (We used Sol Cacao, which comes in a 1.85 ounce bar, so you can break off a couple of its bars not to melt or just use a whole bar of the Sol Cacao and have a little extra melted chocolate.)
Half a gill (¼ cup) of hot water (A “gill” is an old British unit of measure.)
(Nut Variation: Make the maple sugar ball around a salted or unsalted pecan/walnut at the center. Delicious!)
Buy the ingredients before you begin:
Crack the sugar in small bits, put it in a saucepan with the water on the range, but do not let it boil until thoroughly dissolved, when it must boil quite fast for five minutes; while the sugar is boiling crack the chocolate and put it in a bowl over a boiling tea-kettle (We couldn’t figure out how to do this, so we boiled about an inch of water in a small pan and then placed a smaller saucepan on top as a makeshift double boiler, turned off the heat, and the chocolate melted quite nicely.); when the sugar is boiled, take it from the fire, put it in rather a cool place, and beat until so stiff that it may be made into balls; flour the hands very slightly, take a bit about the size of a common marble, roll it perfectly round in the palm of the hand, and proceed (rapidly!) in this way, putting them in a buttered plate; when hard (which does not take but a few minutes), drop them one at a time in the chocolate; have a fork in each hand, turn the little balls until covered with the chocolate, then place them on buttered paper to cool and harden. (Note that the maple sugar is temperamental. It cools quite quickly to become crumbly and hard to shape, so work quickly. Our sugar became too cool before we had finished all the balls, so we repeated adding a bit of water and re-dissolving and boiling as in step one and then cooling and beating until the sugar became pliable again. It was challenging to shape the balls around the nuts, but the taste was worth it.)
(We believe this is a recipe best prepared with two cooks working together because the rolling of the maple sugar balls must happen so fast!). Quantity: Makes about 10 - 12 small chocolates.