18th century trivia and recipes

When I started writing novels set in the 1740s, I thought I knew quite a lot about life in that period. I was mistaken, but over the years, I’ve learned. For example, you find almost no recipes for chocolate because baking cocoa and chocolate (like our chocolate bars) was not available until almost halfway through the 19th century. I did find two chocolate recipes. The edible one is below. I mention it in A Masked Earl.

An 18th century chocolate cream

(similar to a mousse)

I’ve slightly re-phrased it from the original recipe and added explanations where necessary.

Break a quarter pound of Mexican drinking chocolate [see Note 1, below] into a 4 ounces of boiling water and beat and boil it until it be dissolved. Then add a pint of cream and two beaten eggs, and beat it while it boils [Note 2]. When you take it off the fire and ’tis cool, beat it again to make it froth.

Note 1: I used Abuelita Mexican drinking chocolate tablets, probably as close to what the 18th century cook would have used as it’s possible to get. There are other brands, too, including some that are organic. I used a knife to scrape four ounces of the chocolate tablet into a semi-powdery state to make it easier to dissolve.

Note 2: I could not believe I was supposed to actually boil the mixture (which I thought would scorch it). I simmered it instead, and possibly not long enough. Once cooled (in the refrigerator), it was like a soft mousse or pudding. I could not get it to froth. However, I used a whisk rather than an electric beater. It’s possible a kitchen maid would have whisked it harder and longer. Sadly, I do not have a kitchen maid.

PS: It was good. I’m going to try again, cooking it longer and using an electric beater.

From The Merry-Thought: Or, The Glass-Window and Bog-House Miscellany, a collection of early 18th century graffiti inscribed on windows (with a diamond) or written in necessary houses.

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