Regency romance readers will be familiar with ratafia as a drink at balls and parties, a fortified wine made from bitter almonds. Ratafia cakes are like little macaroons or amaretto cookies, and you can whip them up and have them in the oven in under five minutes.
Since bitter almonds contain cyanide and are now banned, I used Pen Vogler’s adapted recipe; almond extract may not be authentic, but at least it’s legal. You can buy Vogler’s book here. Martha Lloyd’s actual Georgian recipe includes “a little orange flower water,” so you could add that too if you want the recipe to be even more authentic.
- 225 g ground almonds
- 225 g confectioner’s sugar
- 3 egg whites
- 2-3 drops almond extract
Preheat the oven to 160C.
In a large bowl, sift the sugar into the ground almonds. I didn’t have icing sugar, so I used caster, which probably changed the texture of the finished cookies. Mix well.
Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Much easier with a modern electric whisk. Beat in the extract. Fold the resulting mixture into the almonds and sugar until you have a smooth (or, if you’re using caster, relatively smooth) paste.
The mix makes between 25 and 30 cookies, so line one or two (depending on the size of your trays) baking sheets with grease-proof paper. Each cookie needs a heaped teaspoon of mix. Press each one into cookie shape, then bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Since I had to use two baking sheets, the cookies on the lower shelf needed longer.
Allow to cool completely before eating.
Me: I made some biscuits and I want you to try them.
15 yr old: Okay… Wait, are these victorian?
Me: Georgian, actually.
15 yr old: Oh, no.
Despite this inauspicious beginning, this was by far the least controversial recipe I’ve tried. Everybody loved these. They were gorgeous. Particularly awesome with a nice cup of tea but, for the love of god, don’t make the tea in a microwave. My little British heart can’t take it.