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Adventures of a Wayward Sailor
I am a poor, wayfaring stranger...
Experiments with chocolate-making 
15th-Feb-2007 05:56 pm
my arms
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 nibsRaw cocoa nibs
Raw cocoa nibs, ground to rough powderRaw cocoa nibs, ground to rough powder
Cocoa powder with sugar, starting to meltCocoa powder with sugar, starting to melt
Cocoa and melted sugarCocoa and melted sugar
Pouring the mixture out to coolPouring 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.

16th-Feb-2007 12:48 am (UTC)
Ohh, I really might have to try this myself sometime. 'Fraid I can't be of help on what those other ingredients are, but thought I would leave the tip here, if you didn't know of the place, that Dover Natural, in well, Dover is a fine place for bulk spices. Might have the moderns days there. Plus they are having a customer appreciation weekend March 2nd and 3rd I believe, 15 percent off everything!
16th-Feb-2007 01:10 am (UTC)
oh yummy.
25th-Mar-2007 12:04 am (UTC) - Links and thoughts...
Mmmm mmmmm good. Must try making it myself.

Oddly, I found these searching for "Roses of Alexandria"... It seems almost ALL references to this flower are in chocolate recipes. The first one seems to suggest that these MAY be the same as "Roses of Castile".

If the rose of Alexandria is the rose of Castile... then it should be probable that "rose of Spain" would be a likely alternative translation... According to Google Cache:
JSTOR: The Square Garden of Henry the Poet
This is one of the synonyms for Biscus, the Great Mallow or Hollyhock, distinctively described by Daniel as the Rose of Spain or Winter Rose, ... -


Logwood is Haematoxylum campechianum, a "leguminous tree in Yucatan with a deep red heartwood very similar to brazilwood. The tree became known as logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum), and by the late 1500s Spanish ships were exporting large cargoes of the valuable heartwood from the Yucatan coast." -

25th-Mar-2007 12:54 am (UTC) - Re: Links and thoughts...
It would be nice to get the recipe used by the nuns in Oaxaca and the monks who brought it back to Europe... - Suggests the "toasting" of the seeds be done at 120 degrees C for one hour. (The link even quotes De Ledesma's 1631 version of the recipe you qouted...)

There seem to be several pre-1600 references to it being a paste... sometimes with added sugar, sometimes maize and sometimes with honey or some combination of the three added in. Most reports seem to sggest the best way to serve it was hot, with a whipped froth.

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