WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Roaring Trade

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Roaring Trade

Valentine’s Day was yesterday, so we all know what that means…

There is no shame in my game.

Unfortunately, we’re experiencing winter here in East Texas, consisting of several inches of snow and intermittently icy roads. This means only fools leave their houses because only fools are on the roads checking out what the other fools are doing on the roads.

If I can’t purchase chocolate, might as well write about it.

Roaring Trade

A quick trade.

Normally I would be quickly trading my cash for chocolate, but since I’m stymied this year, let’s talk historic chocolate. While chocolatiers such as Lindt and Guittard have been around since the mid-19th century, they were not making the bars and confections we recognize today. They also didn’t have shops in Regency England.

Chocolates did exist, however. Historian Barbara Ketcham Wheaton writes this of a French cookbook from 1750:

“There are also some chocolate candies: the still familiar diablotins — flat disks of bitter chocolate, thickly sprinkled with nonpareils, chocolate ‘olives’ (which we call chocolate truffles), and a conserve of chocolate, which turns out to be very like fudge.”

Le Cannameliste français, ou Nouvelle instruction pour ceux qui désirent d’apprendre l’office, by Joseph Gilliers, 1768.

Now these are French confections from a French cookbook, and we all know that the English considered French food to be fit for dogs…but they did adore those heathen-made sweets.

One thing we can be certain of from this era is the drinking chocolate. This specific form was introduced to England around 1600, and became firmly ensconced in society and politics: it set up shop in the coffeehouse.

Trade Card of William White, chocolate and cocoa dealer, circa 1800, courtesy The British Museum.

As this is a post about chocolate rather than culture, I’ll skip any history lessons on the latter and include links below; the subject is fascinating. One tidbit that I will let slip is about Sir Hans Sloane, whose collection of various and sundry items began what is now the British Museum. As with all “first to” designations this is fiercely contested, but Sir Hans is believed to be the first to have blended chocolate with warm milk. The rest, as they say, is history…forever to be fought over.

So let’s talk recipes.

Sir Hans Sloane’s Milk Chocolate, from The British Museum

(modern adaptation)

1 pint (568ml) whole milk
100g plain chocolate (over 80% cocoa solids)
1 tablespoon honey (or sugar)
2 dried chillies (whole)
1 cinnamon stick (halved)
1 vanilla pod (crushed)

Finely chop the plain chocolate and put to one side.

To a saucepan add the milk, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and chillies.

Bring to the boil, then turn off and leave for 5 minutes to infuse.

Remove the cinnamon, vanilla and chilli from the milk mixture.

While the milk is still warm, add the chocolate and whisk heavily until the chocolate is dissolved and there is froth on top.

Serve in a wide-bottomed cup and enjoy!

You’re going to need something to dunk in that chocolate, so why not make something out of more chocolate?! From The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating, and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World, by Laura Kumin, comes a recipe that makes “nuggets of intense chocolate (that) are gluten-free and simple to make. Think of them as a cross between cookies and candy.”

18th Century Crispy Intensely Chocolate Cookies also known as Chocolate Puffs

1 cup superfine sugar + 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch processed, plus 1 1/4 tablespoons
1 egg white from large egg
1 pinch cream of tartar, optional

Preheat the oven to 225 F. Set aside two parchment-lined cookie sheets.

In a medium-small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cocoa until they are a unfirom color. Set the mixture aside.

With a hand beater, stand mixer, or clean whisk, whip the egg white until it is very frothy and beginning to stiffen. (When using a hand or stand mixer to whip egg whites, start at a low speed and slowly raise the speed to medium. Do not use the higher speeds because egg whites whipped that way are less stable. If desired, add a pinch of cream of tartar to help the egg white froth and stiffen. Once the egg white reaches the soft peak stage, slowly add the sugar/coca mixture while continuing to beat the egg white. The result should be a thick paste.

Wet your hands slightly and form the batter into small coins about 3/4-inch diameter. Place them on the parchment-lined cookie sheets. Optional step (which I discovered after the book was published) – if you let the formed cookies sit on the cookie sheet for aobut 30 minutes before baking, they seem to puff up more. Bake for 1 to 1 &1/2 hours.

Store the cookies in a tightly covered container.

Recipe Notes:
I added confectioners sugar on the top of the cookies for the photos. While it’s a nice visual touch, that sprinkling of sugar does not affect their taste.

The recipe in the book allows for cooking 60-90 minutes. At 60-70 minutes, the cookies are crunchy. After that, they begin to become like biscotti, great for dipping.

If you keep your hands reasonably damp and smooth out the outside of the cookie they look smooth after they cook. If you handle them less, they look more like Amaretto di Saronna.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Christ-Cross Row

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Christ-Cross Row

I took an unannounced but much-needed two-week sabbatical, and return refreshed, just in time for winter to suddenly hit East Texas. Time for a craft project. And to bake.

Always to bake.

Christ-Cross Row

The alphabet in a horn-book: called Christ-cross Row, from having, as an Irishman observed, Christ’s cross PREFIXED before and AFTER the twenty-four letters.

A horn-book was a primer and originated in England at least as far back as 1450. It was most often applied to books of the alphabet or religious material, but could be anything introductory in nature. The name derived from the thin, transparent sheet of animal horn attached to a handled-frame, on which the material was printed.

Hornbooks, from Tuer’s History of the Horn-Book, 1896, scanned to Wikimedia Commons.

Last month I read a post from Spitalfields Life that sent me down the rabbit hole of horn-books by first setting me off in a seemingly completely different direction: George Cruikshank’s A Comic Alphabet.

A Comic Alphabet, Designed Etched & Published by George Cruikshank, 1836, courtesy Spitalfields Life.

His was not a horn-book and was not intended for children, but was purely for satire. Published in 1836, A Comic Alphabet could be used for educational purposes: the letters were not always easy to discover, so some study and application of reasoning methods would need to be applied. There is no doubt that most words and concepts are beyond the ken of most children for whom alphabet books are aimed; again, this is not a children’s book. Finding the ‘L’ below would not be an easy or even intuitive task.

Latitude & Longitude from A Comic Alphabet, Designed Etched & Published by George Cruikshank, 1836, courtesy Spitalfields Life.

A Comic Alphabet was also a statement on class distinctions. Veiled in the caricatures are the differences between the poor, middle, and wealthy strata of early Victorian England, coupled Cruikshank’s deft hand of critique. There is no escaping the ultimate irony of using a stereotypical children’s book to poke fun at social, economic, and political aspects of the day.

Equality, from A Comic Alphabet, Designed Etched & Published by George Cruikshank, 1836, courtesy Spitalfields Life.

Please visit The Gentle Author at Spitalfields Life to see the entirety of A Comic Alphabet with glorious detail (and consider subscribing to her newsletter; you won’t be sorry).