Tag Archives: Chocolate

A Kitchen Just for Chocolate

In the 1700s, chocolate was still a drink (as it always had been among the Aztecs), and it still inhabited the realm of privilege. The British had, in the mid-1600s, hit on the idea of adding milk and sugar, which made it much nicer than it been previously, but in the 1700s, it was still not affordable. Chocolate was costly, and the sugar and spices used to improve its taste were also costly. So the man on the street was not consuming chocolate–but the monarch was. In the Georgian Era, which started with George I, Hampton Court Palace actually had a chocolate kitchen, with a chocolate maker on site, to make sure the King always got his morning chocolate. Wonder what a chocolate kitchen looks like? Well, fortunately, the original chocolate kitchen at Hampton Court has been located and can be visited. But if you’re not near Hampton Court, here’s a video. Think I’ll go get some chocolate.

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Truffes au Chocolat

Today, people call just about any piece of chocolate with a ganache filling “truffle.” It has gotten to the point where the term is so common in this context, some people are surprised to learn that the word “truffle” actually originally applied to something other than chocolate.

Truffles—real truffles—are wonderful fungi that grow on tree roots. They are a bit lumpy, looking rather like something that was intended to be spherical but got slightly battered. However, they are beautiful to those who fancy them. I adore the earthy flavor and fragrance of truffles.

Chocolate truffles began to become popular in the early 1900s. They were called “chocolate truffles” because they looked like real truffles (black truffles, that is; there are also white truffles, but that’s not what these imitate). The original chocolate truffles (which are still commonly made in Europe) did not have a chocolate coating, and they were not perfectly round. They were, like real truffles, a bit lumpy, and they were dusted with cocoa powder, to keep them from sticking together, as well as to suggest the dry dirt that might cling to a real truffle. They were meant to amuse the eye, as well as the palate. Because they are not coated, they are quite delicate—which is probably why folks started coating them. They’re easier to package and ship. But that doesn’t mean they’re better. Continue reading

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Chocolate Grinders, Oaxaca, Mexico

There really is no good substitute for chocolate—but you couldn’t tell that to the creative Aztec forgers who found a way to create a cacao alternative at a time when the beans were a form of money. Fake cacao beans might have been harder to keep in circulation than forged paper money, however.

Theobroma cacao (and who would disagree with the name—Theobroma means “drink of the gods”) was used by Aztecs in ways that would not seem familiar or even appealing to most of us today. While the pre-Columbian practice of grinding chocolate and chilies together is still reflected in Mexico’s mole sauce, and has re-emerged in a few daring, high-end confections, the chocolate preparations of the Aztecs were generally designed for impact rather than taste. The two forms for consumption were pastes and drinks. Cocoa pastes might include (in addition to chilies) corn, fruit, or hallucinogenic mushrooms. Beverages, which also incorporated hot chilies, were unsweetened and beaten until frothy. Only the ruling class could afford (or were permitted) chocolate, but they consumed it in large amounts. The emperor Moctezuma in particular was a fan. He drank his chocolate from golden goblets—some say as many as 40 servings a day—because it was reputed to be an aphrodisiac. Continue reading

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