Saturday, February 13, 2016

Chocolate: sweet in any century

old engraving that depicts chocolate flower, fruit and seeds
Illustration in The Chocolate-Plant is credited
to "an old engraving." The image depicts the
flowers, fruit and seeds of the chocolate plant.

February brings Valentine's Day, which brings chocolate. Yum.

Chocolate fandom surpasses century boundaries. I can imagine a character in one of my novels reading  The Chocolate-Plant (Theobroma cacao) and Its Products, an 1891 book similar to modern publications that trace a culinary product's history from the days of antiquity. 

Author Mrs. Ellen H. Richards also provides "suggestions relative to the cooking of chocolate and cocoa." Of course, I flipped right to that section. Flipped digitally, I should say. I've discovered a wonderful world of digitized public-domain cookbooks on various library and other websites.

The "receipt" for Chocolate Ice Cream in The Chocolate-Plant is so complex I got tired just reading it. And I like to bake and make sweets. 

Chocolate was often a treat and a luxury for pioneers on a frontier. That might account for a 19th century 
cook's willingness to follow an intricate recipe. 

Here is the recipe, for historical interest only. I haven't tried it and don't vouch for it. Especially because the instructions assume the cook is using a wood-burning stove.
For about two quarts and a half of cream use a pint and a half of milk, a quart of thin cream, two cupfuls of sugar, two ounces of No. 1 chocolate, two eggs and two heaping tablespoonfuls of flour.
Put the milk on to boil in the double-boiler. Put the flour and one cupful of the sugar in a bowl; add the eggs, and beat the mixture until light. Stir this into the boiling milk and cook for twenty minutes, stirring often.
Scrape the chocolate and put it in a small saucepan. Add four tablespoonfuls of sugar (which should be taken from the second cupful) and two tablespoonfuls of hot water. Stir over a hot fire until smooth and glossy. Add this to the cooking mixture.  
When the preparation has cooked for twenty minutes take it from the fire and add the remainder of the sugar and the cream, which should be gradually beaten into the hot mixture. Set away to cool, and when cold, freeze.  
The Chocolate-Plant, published by Walter Baker and Co. of Massachusetts, is the second version of an earlier release. A publisher's note indicates the first one was so warmly received it was expanded and reissued. 

The book is a fun read. I recommend browsing through it while munching on a chocolate bar. Which, by the way, cost 2 cents to buy in 1908. (Thanks, Food Timeline, for that factoid.)

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