Monthly Archives: January 2014

  • Chocolate: "A Light and Wholesome Breakfast"

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    Chocolate is probably the most celebrated food in western civilization...okay, you're right; there is bacon, but besides that...

    Many of our most decadent desserts are made with it. We flavor our coffee with it and brew our beer to taste like it. It is our sinful indulgence. We dream of it. We die by it. There are entire corporate empires founded upon it. It is available at every check-out counter. It's dark. It's white. It's milky and silky.

    I recently bought a chocolate bar that had bacon in it.

    And if you could top off the wonders of chocolate with something even more delightful, it may be with the news reports that certain forms of chocolate are said to be good for you. Numerous studies have been conducted pronouncing the health benefits of chocolate...as if we need that information to ease our guilty consciences or at at least justify our indulgences. It is said by some that chocolate is good for your blood -- improving heart health, reducing the risk of stroke, and increasing blood circulation to the brain. With more oxygen to the brain, chocolate may even make your smarter. Chocolate is believed by others to curb appetites, reduce the risk of diabetes, protect your skin from harmful UV rays, quiet nagging coughs, and improve your vision. And of course any chocolate lover knows that chocolate is a mood enhancer and an aphrodisiac.

    As remarkably healthful as modern opinions make chocolate out to be, historically, it considered by most to have little medicinal benefit of its own. D. de Quelus, author of the 1730 book, The Natural History of Chocolate, suggested that its greatest virtue in medicine may be as a flavoring for such other more powerful pharmacological ingredients as the "Powders of Millepedes, Vipers, Earthworms, [and] the Livers and Galls of Eels." Chocolate was one way to "take away the distasteful ideas that the sick entertain against these remedies."

    Chocolate, however, was considered a wholesome, nutritious,  and well-balanced food. Elsewhere in his book, de Quelus promoted the consumption of chocolate because of its general wholesomeness and relative economy. "[It is] a dish so cheap, as not to come to above a penny. If tradesmen and artizans were once aware of it, there are few who would not take the advantage of so easy a method of breakfasting so agreeably, at so small a charge, and to be well supported till dinner-time, without taking any other sustenance, solid or liquid."

    John Perkins, in his 1796 book, Every Woman her own Housekeeper, suggested that based on its wholesomeness, those who made chocolate a part of their regular diet may be less subject to "any particular distempers." He further explained that "the general breakfast of people from the highest to the lowest is tea, coffee, or chocolate," often supplemented by some bread, butter, and sugar -- an interesting insight into chocolate's waxing acceptance and availability across the spectrum of English societies.

    Maria Rundell, in her 1814 cookbook, A New System of Domestic Cookery, called cocoa "a light and wholesome breakfast." She offered a recipe for a convenient chocolate syrup that could be prepared in advance, stored for a week or so, and simply added to hot milk when one was ready to consume it.

    Here's a little video in which Jon and Ivy demonstrate Mrs. Rundell's recipe. The chocolate we use is available here on our website.

  • Picking Mulberries by Thomas Rowlandson

    Picking Mulberries_Thomas Rowlandson(1756-1827)_undatedThomas Rowlandson (1756-1827)  from the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

    Detail: fruit, food, pottle basket, basket, cold frame, house, ladder, workman, hawkers, straw hat, farm, street vendor

  • The Sporting Undergraduate by Henry William Bunbury 1772

    The Sporting Undergraduate_Henry William Bunbury(1750-1811)_1772Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811) from the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

    Detail: horse, sign post, walking stick, saddle, riding boots, hat

  • A Chocolate Tart Another Way

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    While most chocolate in the 18th century was consumed as a drink (and most often for breakfast), it began to show up in a few period dessert recipes as well. Chocolate's introduction to the dessert table was fairly subtle. It wasn't until after the Industrial Revolution of the mid 19th century, when the chocolate manufacturing process was mechanized, that chocolate would eventually take the final course by storm.

    One early 18th century chocolate dessert recipe can be found in the 1737 book, The Whole Duty of a Woman.

    This recipe likely served as inspiration for later versions, including the one found in Hannah Glasse's 1800 cookbook, The Complete Confectioner,  (edited by Maria Wilson):

    A few other old chocolate tart recipes exist. Some use wheat flour instead of rice flour. I believe rice flour was used in these particular recipes, not for structure necessarily as it would in bread, but rather as a thickening agent. While the chocolate tart pictured above looks very much like a modern brownie, its internal texture was quite different. Unlike the "bready" or gooey structure of a brownie, this tart is firm yet silky smooth.

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    Rice flour was used in many 18th century recipes. If you don't have any in your cupboard, you may be able to find it in your local grocery store under the brand label "Bob's Red Mill" or you can order it online here.

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    Recently, the Mars corporation introduced a line of authentic 18th century chocolate products. These products are available on our website. The folks at Mars adjusted Glasse's recipe for the modern kitchen. We made a video.

    A Chocolate Tart

    Ingredients:
    1 T Rice Flour
    3T sugar
    5 med egg yolks or 4 large
    1T whole milk
    1 pint heavy cream
    5 oz chocolate, grated
    1 prepared pastry shell
    pinch of salt

    Directions:
    Combine the salt, egg yolks, rice flour, and milk in a bowl and set aside.

    Combine the cream and chocolate in a pan and gently bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the sugar until both the sugar and the chocolate are completely melted.

    Take ¼ c of the warm mixture and add to the egg yolks, stirring continuously to prevent scrambling.

    Stir the warmed egg mixture into the saucepan and bring all the ingredients to a boil for about a minute. Set aside and allow it to cool to room temperature.

    Preheat your oven to 350-degrees (F). Pour mixture into a pie shell and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until set. Refrigerate 3-4 hours or overnight (it is absolutely best if you allow it to set overnight).

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    To finish this recipe in an authentic 18th century fashion, sprinkle the top of the tart with sugar and toast it carefully with a hot iron salamander or ember shovel. If you don't have a salamander, you can use the overhead broiler in your oven -- just be very careful to avoid burning the tart. A kitchen torch, like one used for Crème brûlée, will work as well.

    This recipe happens to work perfectly with our handmade 8" tart tin.

  • Fishermen by William Pyne 1804

    Fishermen by William Pyne(1769-1843)_1804William Pyne (1769-1843)

    Detail: fisherman, net, barrel, boat, anchor, oar, boat hook, fishing boat, sailboat, lee board, striped shirt, short jacket, knit cap, slops, workmen

  • Hornworking by Jacques-Raymond Lucotte 1771

    Hornworking by Jacques-Raymond Lucotte 1771From Diderot's Encyclopedia by Jacques-Raymond Lucotte

    Detail: workshop, workmen, horn, hearth, iron pot, basket, chair, table, vice, cleaver, window, door, stump, clamp

  • The Frigate Surprise at Anchor off Great Yarmouth Norfolk by Francis Holman 1775

    The Frigate Surprise at Anchor off Great Yarmouth Norfolk_Francis Holman(1760-1790)_1775Artist: Francis Holman(1760-1790) from the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

    Detail: sailor, boat, ship, frigate, navy, ensign, oar, windmill, sailboat, pier, pilot boat, officer

  • A View Near New Cross Deptford in Kent 1770

    A View Near New Cross Deptford in Kent 1770 Artist Unknown - From the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

    Detail: workmen, digging, shovel, farm, house, barn, cart, horse, dog, child, fence, gate, pitcher, women's clothing

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