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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
- Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
- Learn about the history of Drinking Chocolate from The 18th-century chocolate champions at The British Museum.
- Learn even more about 18th-century Drinking Chocolate from All Things Georgian.
- Read the article about The Hamilton Cookbook launch, and find the buy links HERE.