One of my A&S projects for Northern Lights this year is chocolate. I found a really neat pamphlet which just clings barely to the edge of period (Antonio Colmenero, tran. Don Diego de Vades-forte. “A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate.” Published in London in 1640, in Spain before 1631.) and decided I wanted to redact the Spanish recipe for making tablets of drinking chocolate:
To every 100 Cacaos, you must put two cods of the long red Pepper, of which I have spoken before, and are called, in the Indian Tongue, Chilparlagua; and in stead of those of the Indies, you may take those of Spaine; which are broadest, and least hot. One handfull of Annis-seed Orejuelas, which are otherwise called Vinacaxlidos: and two of the flowers, called Mechasuehil, if the Belly be bound. But in stead of this, in Spaine, we put in sixe Roses of Alexandria beat to Powder: One Cod of Campeche, or Logwood: Two Drams of Cinamon, Almons, and Hasle-Nuts, of each one Dozen: Of white Sugar, halfe a pound: Of Achiote, enough to give it the colour. And if you cannot have those things, which come from the Indies, you may make it with the rest.
|Raw cocoa nibs|
|Raw cocoa nibs, ground to rough powder|
|Cocoa powder with sugar, starting to melt|
|Cocoa and melted sugar|
|Pouring the mixture out to cool|
This was a practice batch. I only had half a pound of raw cocoa nibs, and I’m not sure how many beans that makes up. Marcy Norton’s helpful article “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics” explains that orejuelas is a Spanish translation of the Nahuatl words gueynacaztle (“great ear” in Nahuatl) and xochinacaztli (“flowery ear”), two flowers that were used as spices. What Colmenero calls Mechasuehil is probably mecaxóchitl, which Norton describes as a relative of pepper with an anise-like taste. Since I had neither of these things “which [came] from the Indies,” I substituted some anise for approximate flavor. Achiote is annatto, and I had to leave that out entirely since I didn’t have any. Ditto, the nuts. The batch I enter will have nuts and annatto, but as I said, this was a practice run. Though does anyone know what “Roses of Alexandria” are? Or Campeche / logwood?
I took 1/2 cup raw cocoa beans and ground them to a rough powder in my mortar and pestle. I was going to do a full cup, but my arms were going to fall off. I then added (all measurements approximate) 1/2 tsp chilis, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp anise. I threw that all into a pot and melted down a cup of sugar with it. Yes, I know that’s too much, but I couldn’t get the stuff to stick together.
The whole thing was poured out onto waxed paper and is cooling off. In period, it'd be pressed into boxes for transport. Then pieces get broken off and boiled in water for a drink, and served in several different ways. I licked the spoon after it re-solidified, and I'm very startled with how tasty it actually is. I hate chilies, but it's just the perfect bite.
I tried a piece of the chocolate in some milk this morning – it’s tasty, but far too sweet. There definitely needs to be a finer ratio, probably with the cocoa beans ground finer as well. I also left the sugar on too long, and it’s heavily caramelized. Well, now I know.