“Two days later, as Hercule Poirot drank his morning chocolate…”
I’m having a lazy sort of Saturday. A pot of chicken stock is boiling away in the kitchen, I’m laying on the couch reading yet another Agatha Christie book, my main aim being not to leave the house. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a Saturday like this and maybe the above things will make me sound like the most boring person in the world, but ah, I’m content.
Then I hit that line in my book and suddenly I had an almost irresistible craving for hot chocolate. And not just any kind of hot chocolate, but the exact kind of hot chocolate you might have been drinking in the 1920s and 30s. After some light googling I stumbled across a site all about the history of hot chocolate, with a couple of traditional recipes.
According to the site, chocolate has been drunk for thousands of years and the original hot chocolate recipe was a mixture of ground cocoa beans, water, wine, and chilli peppers. Well perhaps not exactly what I was looking for.
In the late 1500s chocolate was introduced to Europe. Around the mid 1600s it became a health drink in Spain, with Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, an Andalusian physician, stating chocolate makes the drinker “Fat, and Corpulent, faire and Aimiable” (how the times have changed). It was also an aphrodisiac and, in women it, caused fertility and eased delivery (and how they haven’t).
Image via Itsahouse.
Then someone came up with the idea to introduce sugar and suddenly chocolate went from being medicinal to the favourite new drink amongst the hip and rich in Spain. A Spanish princess was married to a French king and brought her own chocolate maker, suddenly hot chocolate became all the rage in Europe. The Queen’s Lane Coffee House in Oxford began serving both coffee and chocolate. Apparently you can still get a coffee there today.
Samuel Pepys (1663-1703), an English Naval Administrator and Member of Parliament, was a huge fan of both coffee and hot chocolate, writing in his diary.
“April 24, 1661 – Waked in the morning with my head in a sad taking through the last night’s drink, which I am very sorry for; so rose and went with Mr Creede to drink our morning draught, which he did give me in jocolatte to settle my stomach”
In the 1700s coffee and chocolate houses became hugely popular in the UK. The two drinks being as popular as tea. But by the end of the 18th century, London’s chocolate houses began to disappear and many of the more fashionable ones turned into gentlemen’s clubs.
Two hot chocolate recipes
I’ve borrowed these from the previously mentioned website because they seem really interesting. I hope they won’t mind.
Angelina’s Hot Chocolate
The Angelina Cafe in Paris, open since 1903, serves a thick hot chocolate version in demitasse cups with a tiny dollop of mascarpone and whipped cream.
6 ounces fine-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup water, room temperature
3 tablespoons hot water
3 cups hot milk, divided
Sugar to taste
Whipped cream, if desired
In a double boiler (I’m guessing they mean a bain marie) over low heat, combine chocolate and 1/4 cup water until melted, stirring occasionally; stir until smooth.
Remove top of double boiler pan. Whisk in 3 tablespoons hot water. Pour into pitcher or divide among individual 4 mugs. Either stir 3/4 cup hot milk into each mug or serve milk in a separate pitcher. Pass sugar and whipped cream in separate bowls; add to taste.
Makes 4 servings.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
4 (1-ounce) squares of Mexican Chocolate (not sure what this means, but would probably use ordinary dark chocolate)
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup hot water
Small pinch of salt
1 teaspoon instant coffee
2 cups of milk
1 egg (optional)
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 dried red chile peppers
Ground cinnamon for sprinkling
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat, add the Mexican chocolate, honey, hot water, salt, coffee, and chile pepper. Heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture just begins to boil; reduce heat to low and let simmer, stirring constantly, for approximately an additional 1 minute. Carefully stir in the milk and let sit over low heat until the chocolate is too warm to touch (you can see the steam rising from it).
In a medium-size bowl, beat the egg until it is frothy, you can use an electric mixer or a fork for this. You just need to make it as frothy as possible. Add the vanilla extract and beat in well.
Pour the hot chocolate mixture over the frothed egg and beat it vigorously for about 15 seconds. You want to beat it until you have about 1/2- to 1-inch of foam on top.
Pour into cups or mugs to serve. Sprinkle some ground cinnamon over the hot chocolate once it is in the mug.
Chai hot chocolate. Image via Simply Baking.
Even though the Mexican hot chocolate with egg sounds really interesting (and I will have to try it at some point), for some of the above stated reasons (can’t really be bothered leaving the house) I decided to just make do with what I could find in the cupboards, some cocoa powder, almond milk, cinnamon and honey. It might not be fancy, but it’s pretty much exactly what I wanted.