1 lb. almonds, blanched
1 lb. sugar
Lemon peel, grated
1/2 lb. flour, sifted
Pound in a mortar one pound of blanched almonds quite fine, with the whites of three eggs; then put in one pound of sifted loaf sugar, some grated lemon-peel, and the yelks [yolks] of fifteen eggs– work them well together; beat up to a solid froth the whites of 12 eggs, and stir them into the other ingredients with a quarter of a pound of sifted dry flour; prepare a mould; put in the mixture, and bake it an hour in a slow oven; take it carefully from the mould and set it on a sieve.
The Cook’s Oracle by William Kitchiner, MD, New York, 1829
Comment: We trust that our readers, presumably computer owners all, would beat the egg whites for a recipe like this with an electric mixer. Should you wish to get the feel for how a cook in the 19th century would work, you should get a couple of thin wooden rods (your local Chinese restaurant would be a potential source of supply as they usually carry inexpensive chopsticks) and carry out the operation with those. You will soon get an understanding of why a fancy dessert like this was most often enjoyed in a household which employed servants, for whom a sore wrist was the least of the injuries they were liable to incur in the course of a day’s work.
Another standard practice was to use a small dish or plate when separating eggs. Crack the egg carefully over the plate and separate the shell into two reasonably equal halves. The white will start to fall out onto the plate as soon as it is divided. Then pour the yolk back and forth a couple of times to let the remainder of the white fall out. Dump the yolk into one mixing bowl, toss the shells, then pour the white into a separate vessel (keeping careful count as you go!) This served a double purpose:
–if the yolk breaks and bleeds into the white, toss both parts into a separate container and make an omelet later. The tiniest trace of yolk will keep the whites from frothing properly so must be discarded.
–In those days before commercial egg-packagers had expensive inspection techniques at the factory level, it was much more common to get a “bad egg” in the middle of an otherwise good batch. This too will pollute the entire container–not to mention stink up the kitchen!– so using the small dish method was absolutely essential. It’s still a good habit to practice.