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Chocolate as it used to be

posted Sep 6, 2011, 3:07 AM by Sophie Jewett
We were fortunate to be invited to spend the day at Ryedale Folk Museum in the beautiful village of Hutton-Le-Hole at the end of August, they asked if we could share some of our chocolate history discoveries with their visitors, so we thought we would take the chance to test out some of the medicinal benefits of chocolate that were enjoyed when it first arrived on our shores. 

Rydale Folk Museum is a gorgeous museum in the North York Moors, a definite destination perfect for the whole day and great for a range of family members. The traditional houses and shops are something that always capture my imagination, but they were so fun to explore with different foods being created - they had crumpet and muffin making on a traditional hearth and honey gathering from the museum's bees, visitors were in for a delectable treat that day. 

The day was a perfect occasion for us to make and share our research on chocolate as it was originally had - as a drink rather than as a bar. Chocolate was brought over by the Spanish and quickly spread through the European courts as a drink, it was one of these exotic new hot liquors - the others being Tea and Coffee from the far corners of the empires. The Cacaos would be roasted in a pan, then the shell would be discarded and they would be ground on a mortar stone under which a fire would be lit, the result would be a thick, mud like paste, this is what the chocolate industry now calls Cocoa Liquor or Cocoa Mass, it is at the centre of chocolate making. This paste would be extremely bitter and would be mixed with spices in order to make it more palatable, the favoured spice by the time it reached the UK being sugar. The paste would be mixed with spices and would have water added to it, Hans Sloane discovered that by adding milk to it made a desirable drink with medicinal benefits when drunk hot, whilst the Georgian courts would enjoy the mixture with warm wine to create the most luxurious and decadent chocolate drink. 

The problem with this chocolate was the fat content in the cocoa mass, it made it look unsightly and would not mix properly, the Aztecs got round this by pouring the chocolate from a great height to create a froth on top. Over time a number of things have been used to remove the fat from the chocolate, Rowntree used Icelandic Moss, others used starch or corn flour, whilst the Dutch came up with an ingenious press that would extract the fat, leaving the dry residue behind. This dry residue became known as cocoa, it was easier to transport and the chocolate industry took a different turn, whilst the fat that had been extracted was sent to London to be used in the cosmetics industry, where it is still used to make moisturisers and lipsticks. 

We decided we would re-create Sir Hans Sloane's medicinal chocolate drink, on his return from a trip ti Jamaica, he came back with a recipe to drink chocolate made with hot milk, the cocoa mass would be ground with sugar and then mixed into boiling milk. The result was the most gorgeous chocolate drink, that was sold by Cadbury brothers for many years. The result on the day was as amazing as any drinking chocolate I've ever tasted, and all the more so for how simple it was, and our visitors very much agreed. 

We used 1 ounce of cocoa mass, 1 ounce of sugar and 1 pint of milk. Heated the milk until it boiled we then added the sugar at the cocoa mass and stirred, whisking the mixture to ensure the cocoa butter and milk were fully mixed. The result was gorgeous. We could certainly see the fat on the top as it rose to the surface, but modern dipping sticks that are made with just chocolate have twice as much cocoa butter, so there were less problems than there might have been, but still, such great chocolatey flavour. 

If you would like to taste Sir Hans Sloane's original recipe join us at The Fountain on Parliament Street during York Festival of Food and Drink, 16th - 25th September where you can taste and purchase your own to make at home.