Hot Chocolate the 18th Century Way
Happy Wednesday. I have been excited about this post for weeks! Do you know how much information there is about hot chocolate in the 18th century? Uh.. about waaaay too much! Why were the people of the Rococo period so obsessed with this warm, sweet drink? Well, let me tell you. There is much to be said! It was not until the middle of the 17th century that cacao had become popular to drink in England. It was introduced by privateers and later popularized during the reign of Louis XIV who married the Spanish princess Maria Teresa. The privateers, who were English, preyed on Spanish vessels and stole into the supplies of cacao along with two other beverages, tea and coffee. It was not long until the English were growing their own hot beverage crops along with cane sugar, which was slowly being introduced as a sweetener for the wealthy. It makes sense why so many colonial recipes were sweetened with honey or molasses!
The first known recipes for hot chocolate were of the spiced variety, made with the powder from whole cacao beans and cooked over open flame. For most, the spices included but were not subjected to long red pepper, cloves, star anise, cardamom, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, chiles, and orange flower or rose water. Here is a recipe from the period:
"Take six pounds of cacao-nuts, one pound of aniseeds, four ounces of long pepper, one of cinnamon, a quarter of a pound of almonds, one pound of pistachios, as much achiote as will allow, six found loaf sugar, one ounce of nutmeg, dry and beat them, and put them through a fine sieve. Your almonds must be ground to a paste, and mixed with the other ingredients; then dip your sugar in orange flower or rose water, and put it in a skillet, on a very gentle charcoal fire; then put in the spice and slew it well together; then the milk and achiote; then put in the cacao-nuts last of all. slew all there very well together over a hotter fire than before; then take it up, and put it into boxes or what form you like, and set it to dry in a warm place."
Why it was left to sit and dry in a box, I have no idea! Either way, it was a very popular drink among the upper classes, eventually trickling its way down to the middle class, poor, and indentured servants. Most chocolate was imported to the North American colonies as it was a faster journey, which made it a much more affordable drink of choice. During the American Revolution there was only one chocolate maker in Britain and almost 70 in the colonies. What a difference! Most perceived that cacao had many medicinal properties including longevity, help lung ailments, cure hangovers, energize the body, stimulate libido, and even cure a cough. Of course, because of this, women were often cautioned against drinking the beverage. Though it was funny to read that the direct opposite of this happened! Women were in fact the main consumers of hot chocolate, though children were often denied drinking it because of its stimulant nature.
I am excited to share a classic spiced hot chocolate recipe in the style of a colonial kitchen! It was years ago that we were gifted a hot chocolate mix from Williams Sonoma, I believe, that was made with shaved chocolate. It was fantastic! I have always wondered how to make something as decadent and rich at home. Considering we are trying to stay away from processed food (sorry Nestle Hot Cocoa Powder), hot cocoa on the go was something I knew I was going to miss this holiday season! Thankfully, making it yourself is not difficult at all.
- 1 tbsp Dutch cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup rose water (or plain water)
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
- 1/2 can sweet condensed milk
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 2 star anise
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp salt
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the rose water and cocoa powder until smooth.
- Stir in the bittersweet chocolate, sweet and condensed milk, whole milk, spices, vanilla, and salt.
- Bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot. Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise. Serve immediately topped with marshmallows, whipped cream, and peppermint sticks!
You will never want to drink hot chocolate mix again! This is one of my all time favorite recipes I have ever made here on the blog. The flavor is absolutely rich, creamy, exotic, and heavenly. You do not need much to experience the full flavor! In fact, I enjoyed it immensely at 3 cups of milk rather than 4, though the mixture was much thicker. If you'd like it to be less powerful, use the full 4 cups. The spice is unusual, though not overpowering, so if you are hesitant about using any of the less common spices, don't worry! The chocolate helps soften the flavor. I found that this hot chocolate is not very sweet, it's more of a mild mocha flavoring. If you'd like to sweeten it up, I recommend putting some whipped cream or soft marshmallow fluff on top before serving! It gives it just the right amount of sweetness.