Monday, February 28, 2005
Analysis of residue from a ceramic vessel similar to a "teapot" suggests that the Maya, and their ancestors, may have been drinking chocolate as far back as 2,600 years ago, pushing back the earliest evidence of cacao use more than 1,000 years.
It was an art to make a good Spanish chocolate because it had many spices, much too much for the refined palate of the French. One even recognizes a touch of hot red pepper and cinnamon, and the cocoa paste required multiple ingredients and a delicate proportioning to arrive at harmony. For 100 roasted, crushed and degreased cocoa grains, one needed 12 crushed almonds and 12 hazel nuts, a half crushed sugar loaf, a spoonful of honey, anise grains and two grains pepper of Mexico or grains of Chile, six pinks of Alexandria, a pod of campêche and two drachmas of cinnamon.
Diderot's Encyclopédie gives the following recipe:
cocoa, powdered sugar, cinnamon, one egg, water or milk, one drop of distilled orange flower water and 2 drops of ambergris. "There had been a lot of discussions and lots of articles published on the virtues and dangers of the use of chocolate, depending on what was added to it. Some almonds could be added to the hazelnuts. There had been a big debate (religious) to decide if chocolate was "food" or "liquid". Because liquids could be had on Catholic Fast Days. The rumor has it that Louis XV himself drank chocolate only on Fast Days." FandIWomen
Chocolate seems to have been a staple in the 18thC preacher, Jonathan Edwards, household, as it was in many American colonial homes. "In the 18th century, one of the larger general merchandise firms in Philadelphia was Baynton, Wharton and Morgan. When the F&I war ended and the old Northwest territory became British property, the company seized on the opportunity to open a new market. They sent the junior partner, George Morgan, to the small village Kaskaskia, on the east bank of the Mississippi river in what is now Illinois to set up an outlying store. All the goods on my list were ordered for that store, not for any particular number of individuals. Still, even for a store, the amounts are impressive, considering the location. In the spring he ordered: 6000 Wt Loaf Sugar, . . . and 2000 pounds Chocolate"--quite an order for so remote a village.
A recipe I use for making chocolate tablets is: 200 grams pure good unsweetened chocolate (30 grams = 1 ounce), 4 medium size cinnamon sticks (about 2" long), 1 teaspoon anise seeds, 2 tablespoons almonds or hazelnuts ground, and 1 vanilla bean split and seeds scraped to be ground with spices. Melt all ingredients together in bain marie and pour out as dollops on paper to make tablets about 1 1/2 tablespoons each.
To make a chocolate drink, grate one tablet into your chocolatière and add 6 ounces of water per person. Froth with your molenillo or moulinet. Add sugar to taste. Recipe courtesy Hélène Gousse. You could experiment with cayenne pepper, orange flower water or ambergris and different types of sugars. Aztecs used corn flour and eggs, too.
Porcelaine chocolate pots are being reproduced today and in-depth information is also available.