Friday, May 16, 2014

Parisian Hot Chocolate

As we went through the history of chocolate, there was a collective sigh of satisfaction when we finally reached the stage where sugar and chocolate met! :) Because sugar cane isn't native to the Americas, and cacao isn't native to Africa, it took a middleman to get the two ingredients together, and that middleman was Spain. After Cortez conquered the Aztecs, he introduced cacao to the Spanish Court. (Actually, Columbus had tasted cacao beans also, but he saw no value in them and they didn't become popular at that time.) With the addition of sugar, hot drinking chocolate became palatable to Europeans, and there soon appeared a whole industry of chocolate pots and chocolate dishes and chocolate houses selling hot chocolate. We learned about the contributions of  Coenraad Van Houten (made a cocoa press to separate cocoa butter from cocoa solids), Fry and Sons (made solid, moldable chocolate by adding extra cocoa butter), Daniel Peter (invented milk chocolate) and Rudolphe Lindt (developed the conching process). 

Here is a video we watched about the history/development of chocolate. (Be aware that there are a couple references to aphrodisiacs in it.) It was an interesting video, if a little heavy on the "extreme close-up on hand putting a piece of chocolate into huge mouth" shot. All the videos about chocolate seemed to rely heavily on that shot, come to think of it.

Illustrations about the history of chocolate from Cadbury.

We learned that hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder and hot chocolate is made from melted chocolate. And best of all, we tried some French-style hot chocolate! This chocolate is rich, thick, and delicious. We tested two different recipes

This one (scroll down to the "Angelina's Hot Chocolate" recipe). This page also has some images of fancy chocolate sets, and facts about the history of chocolate.
and this one by David Lebovitz (this was our favorite!)
This one looked good too, but we didn't make it.
We divided into two teams to make the hot chocolates. Seb and I made one, and Abe and Ky made the other. They were similar, but one has you prepare a melted chocolate mixture and heat cream separately. Then you add the hot cream and sugar to the chocolate in your cup, like you would with tea. 

The recipe we liked best actually combines the chocolate and milk from the start. You boil them together for several minutes, just like you would with hot fudge, and then you can add additional cream for serving, if you wish. I think it was this boiling/reducing process that made the second kind so good. 

I'll reproduce that second recipe (our favorite one--the David Lebovitz one) here, for convenience:

Parisian Hot Chocolate

2 cups whole milk
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped. [That's not quite 1 c., if you're measuring it that way.]
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

You heat the milk in saucepan, and once it's warm, whisk in the chocolate pieces. Once the chocolate melts, allow the mixture to come to a boil, whisking constantly (watch out, it may foam up!). Boil for 4-5 minutes, then whisk in brown sugar and serve.

It's very rich and thick as given in the recipe, almost like you're eating pure melted chocolate. It's really good! For the sake of science, we have also tried making the recipe with less chocolate than called for--- we tried it with 4 ounces and with 3 ounces (so about 3/4 c. and 1/2 c., respectively). Although both versions are, of course, slightly less chocolate-y, we found them just as delicious! The boiling process seems to deepen and slightly caramelize (?) the chocolate, giving it a really good and different flavor from a typical hot chocolate. You should really try this recipe!
Here is the first version, the kind where you add milk and sugar to the cup
Of course we used the gorgeous china tea set I inherited from my grandmother. I love an excuse to use it because it feels SO fancy! I told the boys, I could just close my eyes and imagine myself in Paris, watching the people walk by and sipping chocolate at a sidewalk café. :)
Great excitement before drinking
Oh my goodness. What deliciousness. We will be making this again and again!

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