Monday, June 23, 2008

Chocolate Alternatives.

June 23 ...

Last week, in the story on chocolate, my recipe source was Every man his own Gauger, by ‘James Lightbody, Philomath’, published in 1695. It is a lovely little book full of useful tables of measures and prices as well as information on ‘the true Art of Brewing Beer, Ale, Mum, … and several English Wines’. There is a section called ‘The Compleat Coffee-Man’ (good name for a business, if you are looking for one), which teaches ‘how to make Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Content, and the Richest, Finest Cordials &c…’.

Now Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate were all new to England in the seventeenth century, so what caught my eye in James’ book was that chocolate had already become a gold standard in the delicious beverage department, as shown by the fact that there was already an interest in alternatives. Note that I do not use the word ‘substitute’, for I do not believe that there is a true substitute for chocolate. And that includes carob (see the quotation below). If you need a chocolate alternative – delicious in its own right, but with no pretensions to be the Vague Ghost of a Pale Imitation of The Real Thing, then this idea from James’ book sounds just the ticket.

To make a sort of Liquor, which is not in the least inferior to Chocolate.
Take a sufficient quantity of the kernels of new Walnuts, and take the small rine or skin from them, put them into a pan and dry them so as they may be beaten to a fine powder, then searce [sieve] the powder through a fine searce, beating the Gross till it become as fine as it may pass the searce; to every pound of the same powder, add six ounces of fine sugar, one ounce of Nutmegs, half a dram of Saffron, all beat to a powder. Then take a pint of milk, and half a pint of water, and boyle for a small time over a gentle fire, and put thereto one ounce and a half of the powder; then take a small quantity of the Liquor out and beat with a dozen of Eggs, adding thereto three or four spoonfuls of Cream, and put all together and let it boyle for half an hour gently, then take it off and keep it hot for use; observing to use the Mollinet, as you did in Chocolate: I have known Hazelnuts used instead of Walnuts.

The recipe also gives you another opportunity to use your mollinet, which I know that some of you rushed out to buy recently.

It strikes me that this beverage actually sounds like a walnut custard: would it not also be a delicious alternative to accompany your apple pie? Or if made with hazelnuts, to add value to your chocolate cake?

The little Philomath* also mentioned something called ‘Content’ alongside tea, coffee, and chocolate in his foreword. He does indeed have are recipe for such a desirable thing, and I will give it to you next week, perhaps?

*The OED tells me that this is an obsolete word for "A lover of learning; a student or scholar, esp. of mathematics, natural philosophy, etc.; (formerly) spec. astrologer or prognosticator"

Tomorrow’s Story.


Quotation for the Day.

Carob is a brown powder made from the pulverized fruit of a Mediterranean evergreen. Some consider carob an addequate substitute for chocolate because it has some similar nutrients (calcium, phosphorus) and because it can, when combined with vegetable fat and sugar, be made to approximate the color and consistency of chocolate. Of course, the same argument can as persuasively be made in favor of dirt. Sandra Boynton.

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