Food Power | Recipes and World Cuisine



Chocolate is a "New World" food. Food historians confirm ancient Aztec and Mayan peoples consumed chocolate in religious rituals. They did not each this precious substance or use it as an ingredient in recipes. European explorers introduced chocolate to their home countries. Early European uses mirrored those of New World Natives; sipped as special beverage. Except? Europeans tradition did not include the religious connection. Savvy entrepreneurs were quick to experiment on this new substance to expand market possibilities.


Colonial American chocolate
Chocolate was big business in Colonial America. It was imported/manufactured/exported in large quantities. American colonies competed with Europe for New World market domination.

Was chocolate candy sold in colonial era candy stores? Probably not. We find no evidence supporting personal portion chocolate candy (bon bons, truffles, bars) sold in colonial American shops to retail customers. Unsweeteened powder (for cocoa or cooking) was most likely the predominant chocolate product available in the Colonies. And then, only to the wealthy living in urban centers. One of the earliest references to "biting chocolate" (eating?) comes from the Marquis de Sade, 1779.

Savvy chocolate makers were keenly aware of the volatile nature of raw product availability and seasonal production. They routinely repurposed cocoa grinders to accomodate a variety of specialized goods, including spices and mustard. We can only imagine how these other flavors effected the flavor of the chocolate they produced.

"American consumers were probably savvier about their chocolate in the 18th century than they are in the modern world. Colonial chocolate makers routinely advertised the geographic sources of their cocoa, much like modern coffee vendors do for their coffee beans...Because of high transportation costs and excessive import duties on cocoa, Euroepan chocolate was both expensive and exclusive. It was a beverage for the elite and demand was relatively low...In North America, by contrast, chocolate was more available at cheaper prices and consumed by a wider variety of people. The quantity of domestically produced chocolate was sufficient enough to give it away to the poor. The Almshouses of Philadelphia and New York regularly provided chocolate and sugar to its needy residents, something that did not happen in England for the fear of indulging the poor...American chocolate makers routinely advertised chocolate for sale in newspapers throughout the 18th century. Approximately 70 commerical chocolate makers have been identified from these sources...American chocolate manufacturers were concentrated in four major production centers: Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, and Newport (Rhode Island). Since these locations regularly were engaged in the trade with the West Indies, it is logical that the domestic chocolate production also occurred here."
---Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage, Louis Evan Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro editors [John Wiley & Sons:Hoboken NJ] 2009 (p. 284-285)


Colonial American chocolate industry
"Another feature of American chocolate was that is was primarily machine-made and purchased in stores. Chocolate histories written from a European perspective generally ignore American manufacturing methods. American newspaper advertisement...provide insight regarding chocolate-making equipment and the chocolate makers themselves. Since there were no monopolies or manufacturing guilds, there were no barriers to entry into the chocolate trade other than capital formation and access to cocoa. American manufactuirng equipment was generally homemade and varied from foot-powered mills capable of producing small quantities to watermills capable of producing several thousand pounds a day. Likewise, there were no patent restrictions...Some chocolate makers also produced other commodities at the same time. The cocoa trade was tenuous...especailly during wartime. Chocolate makers could ill afford disruption in a steady supply of cooa unless they were diverisfied into other commodities. Besides chocolate, chocolate makers commonly ground coffee, oats, spices, mustard, and even tobacco."
---Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage (p. 293)



How was it made?

"Chocolate making was hard work. The labor at times intense and at other times tedious...Whether roasting and shelling hundreds of pounds of cocoa at a time, or walking on a treadmill for hours, or hand-grinding ten pounds of chocolate a day for the Master, the work was mind numbing. And those working in large watermills also had their trials. If the order was for a ton of chocolate for a ship sailing on the next high tide, then well over a ton of cooca would have had to hae ben manhadled onto cards, roasted, shelled, winnowed, taken to the hopper, ground up, mixed and molded, wrapped in paper, packaged into perhaps 50 pound boxes, and loaded onto cars. This in an age where most of that labor would have been done by hand, sun up to sun down. Chocolate generally was not manufactured in the summer because higher temperatures did not allow the chocolate to harden...Therefore, chocolate-making activities started in the fall and ended in late spring."
---Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage (p. 293)

Bakers (est. 1765, Massachusetts) was named for Dr. James Baker. Original product was meant for drinking. The fact that Baker later produced chocolate used for baking (unsweetened at first)was a happy coincidence. 1828 marks the birth of modern chocolate. This new process made possible a broad range of chocolate products. Among them: cocoa, blocks, nibs, shells. Baker sells eating chocolate in 1845.

What is conching? "Conching started in 1879 in Berne, Switzerland, originating with Rodolphe Lindt, son of a local pharmacist. Lindt had trained as a confectioner apprentice and bought two fire-damaged factory buildings and some roasting machinery from a bankrupt mill to manufacture chocolate. In the beginning, the roasters were unable to sufficiently dry and roast the cocoa, and grinding the damp nibs produced a very coarse chocolate. When put into molds, his chocolate developed a whitish coating that was unappealing to consumers. he enlisted the assistance of his brother, August, also a pharmacist, to help investigate the sources of the white coating. August determined that the cause was too much water in the chocolate, which allowed the migration of fat to the surface of the product. He advised Rodolph to heat his roller grinder and let the chocolate mix longer to drive the excess water from the chocolate. Rodolph modified an old water-powered grinding machine developed by an Italian named Bozelli, by embedding iron trought in granite with the upper edges curved inward. A vertical profile of the trough resembled a shell, and Lindt called his invention a conche from the Spanish word for shell, concha. The cirved edges allowed fro more chocolate mass to be added to the trough without splashing out. At the end of each stroke of the roller, the chocolate broke like a wave, incorporating air into the mass. Rodolph added some cocoa butter to reduce the viscosity of the chocolate so it flowed more efficiently over the rollers in the trough. After three days of uninterrupted rolling, the chocolate did not resemble regular chocolate. The aeration reduced the bitter and sour flavors and helped to develop the chocolate aroma. Instead of pressing chocolate paste into the molds, the new chocolate could be poured into molds. When eaten, this new chocolate melted on the tongue and possessed a very appealing aroma. In this was began the production of chocolat fondant. History does not record why Lindt let the chocolate mix for three days. Perhaps it was part of an experimental plan developed with his brother.One anecdote related to the process involved Lindt leaving for a long weekend and forgetting to turn off the machine, which was powered by water from the Aare River. Regardless of the reason for the discovery, Lindt realized this new process had to be maintained as a trade secret. A separate conching building was built, with access limited only to authorized personnel. In 1899, the German magazine Gordian published a discussion entitled: 'Why does this chocolate taste so different from all the other?' The magazine received many ideas from readers speculating on the Lindt process, ranging from using a new kind of grinding machine, to adding peppermint oil, eve to the addition of more cocoa butter. Their conclusion was Lindt's secret could not be cracked. Lindt was able to maintain the secret of his conching process for more than 20 years and eventually sold his company (and the conching secret) to Rudolph Sprungli. One of the ingredients need to product chocolate fondant was cocoa butter. About 50 percent of a cocoa bean is cocoa butter, which has been extracted from cocoa beans since they were first discovered for food and cosmetic applications. The Aztecs put liquor into a pan of boiling water until almost all of the water evaporated. They then re-filled the pan with water and the butter floated to the surface of the water."
---Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage, Louis Evan Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro editors [John Wiley & Sons:New York] 2009 (p. 616-617)


"The Swiss were renowned for their high degree of perfection in the quality and manufacture of chocolate fondant. The Swiss production methods were imitated by most manufacturers, but lack of understanding and failure to pay attention to the details of the Swiss methods often did not lead to success. To make Swiss chocolates, the chocolate had to be bround very fine and additional cocoa butter needed to be added to allow the chocolate to be in a liquid form when warm. Conching lasted up to 48 hours at a temperature of around 55 degrees C. But for many imitators, by the beginning of the 1900s, it was still unclear how Swiss chocolates were produced. It was first believed that additional cocoa butter had to be added to the chocolate. However, high levels of fat in the chocolate were objectionable in flavor and texture, so the melting characteristics of the chocolate were then attributed to the chocolate process itself. To replicate the caramel-like taste of chocolate fondant, experiments over many years were conducted to discover the method of imparting this flavor to the chocolate... Conching was described as an extraordinary process of which the science behind the effects was unknown."

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