The first chocolate ever consumed was a liquid concoction made from crushed cocoa beans, chilli peppers, and water. Quite bitter and spicy, this Mayan version was quite different from the rich sweetness we know today. In fact, the word ‘chocolate’ comes from the Mayan word ‘xocolatl’ which means ‘bitter water.’
Considered as a ‘divine food’, the popularity of chocolate was such that when the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, they were forced to pay taxes to Aztecs in the form of cocoa.
Chocolate as coins
Cocoa beans were very valuable and the Aztecs used them as money. From food, clothes, taxes, to offerings to gods, everything was valued in terms of cocoa beans. If you had a pocket full of cocoa beans, you were rich and prosperous.
Aztec dating secret
Cocoa was supposed to have a stimulating and invigorating effect and the Aztec king drank around 10 cups a day. When he went to see a lady friend, an extra cup would be added. Women, however, were forbidden from drinking it owing to its stimulating effect.
Chocolate’s maiden voyage to Europe
Spain was the first stop of chocolate in Europe. It is reported that Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortes was introduced to chocolate by the Aztecs of Montezuma’s court. After returning to Spain, cacao beans in tow, he supposedly kept his chocolate knowledge a well-guarded secret.
By the late 1500s, chocolate was the food of the elite and no aristocratic home was complete without it. The bitterness of the drink was countered with either sugar or honey and the rich taste of chocolate became more tolerable.
When the daughter of Spanish King Philip III wed French King Louis XIII in 1615, she brought her love of chocolate with her to France. The popularity of chocolate quickly spread to other European courts, and aristocrats consumed it as a magic elixir.
Bitter history of sweet chocolate
But all is not sweet in the history of chocolate. The growing chocolate mania in Europe demanded more and more cocoa and sugar cane to prepare it. Growing them was a hard and back-breaking job, which the hedonistic Europeans didn’t want to do. This started the brutal and horrifying industrialised black slave trade.
From aristocratic abodes to humble homes
In 1828, Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten discovered a way to treat cocoa beans with alkaline salts to make powdered chocolate that was easier to mix with water. This was called the cocoa powder or “Dutch Cocoa.” The machine he used, called the cocoa press, separated cocoa butter from roasted cocoa beans to easily make the cocoa powder that could be used to make assorted chocolates.
This brought the divine chocolate to humble homes as well and mass-production started.
Chocolate goes to town
In 1847, British chocolate company J.S. Fry & Sons created the first solid edible chocolate bar from cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar. The soft, velvet-textured chocolate with superior taste was introduced by Rodolphe Lindt in 1879, using his conching machine.
The early boom in the chocolate industry came in the late 1800s and early 1900s and was ushered in by Cadbury, Mars and Hershey.
Here are some chocolate recipes that you can whip up at home.
Chocolate almond praline ganache
By Saurabh Srivastava, executive chef, Aloft New Delhi Aerocity
100g – Marzipan
450 ml – Dark chocolate (54%) (Melted tempered for coating)
240 ml – Heavy cream
454 ml – Dark chocolate (54%)
70g – Praline paste
* Fill the mould with tempered chocolate. Hold it at an angle and scrape all the excess chocolate from the top and sides of the mould.
* Bring the cream to boil, pour over chopped chocolate and add the praline paste.
* Allow it to set for five minutes. Then, stir gently with rubber spatula until fully blended and smooth.
* To table the ganache, work it with a rubber spatula on the clean marble surface until it is of piping consistency.
* While the mould becomes set, put a small amount of marzipan in it and cover with praline ganache.
* Allow the ganache to set completely.
* Lastly, cover the mould with tempered chocolate and allow it to set.
Classic black forest cake
By Sidharth Bhardwaj, executive chef, JW Marriott Mussoorie
300g – Refined flour
100g – Sugar
80g – Butter
250g – Whipped cream
50 ml – Cherry juice
30g – Cocoa powder
15g – Baking powder
8 no- Egg
250g – Cooking chocolate
30 ml – Water
100g – Cherry
* Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa together.
* In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar till creamy (around one minute). Add eggs and beat till frothy. Fold in the dry ingredients
* Pour each prepared batter into a separate greased pans. Bake the cakes in a 350F preheated oven for 30-35 mins. Remove the baked cake from the oven and cool on a cooling rack.
* Meanwhile, prepare sugar syrup with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. When the sugar syrup is ready, let it cool and add cherry juice.
* Process cherry in a food processor till the filling is slightly crushed. Save the rest of the cherry jam as filling for later.
* Now, to assemble the cake, place the first layer of the chocolate cake on a platter. Drizzle with the cherry flavoured sugar syrup till the cake is moist.
* Spread with one layer of whipped cream. Top with the processed cherry jam filling.
* Now place the second layer of the cake. Spoon whipped cream onto the top layer and frost the cake using a spatula.
* After the whole cake has been frosted with the whipped topping, spoon some cherry onto the middle of the top cake layer.
* Now decorate around the cherry filling using a piping bag filled with whipped topping fitted with a star-shaped nozzle.
* Grate the chocolate bar to get chocolate shavings. Sprinkle this on the sides of the cake.
* Decorate the lower part of the cake with the star nozzle piping bag. Refrigerate till you are ready to cut it. Enjoy!