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Chocolate Comes to Europe in Surprising Ways

#chocolate #chocolatier #scharffenberger

The founders of Scharffenberger Chocolate have produced a fascinating book, The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate that is part history, part recipe book, part engaging stories of their lives and those of cacao growers around the world. The second in three blog posts give you the highlights of how chocolate came to Europe (slower than you'd think!).


The First Cacao in the Europe

"We know from recorded lists and paintings that cacao beans were among the first gifts that Christopher Columbus brought from the New World to the Spanish court in 1502. Columbus knew the beans had value because he'd seen Mesoamericans scramble to find every been when a basket full of cacao had overturned. Unfortunately, because Columbus had no idea what to do with the beans, they languished unused, and chocolate remained unheard of in Europe for another several decades. When Cortes brought cacao to Spain in 1529, he also brought the knowledge of how Montezuma's court had prepared the beans. Slowly but surely, chocolate's popularity spread throughout Spain.


Before the Spanish arrived in the New World, cacao was being cultivated and transplanted, but the influx of Spanish settlers and missionaries marks when cacao really began to move into new areas. Because cacao seeds can't live longer than two weeks, it's pretty clear that people in canoes were paddling cacao seedlings up and down the Amazon River and all along the coastlines of South and Central America. Merchants carried cacao along the Mayan trade routes, and settlers brought it from Mesoamerica to South America and the Caribbean seedlings were being carried across the ocean and finding fertile ground in Africa and Asia. The distinct strains of cacao began to merge.


The Wedding of Maria Theresa and Louis XIV

Chocolate became popular in Spain shortly after Cortes brought cacao to the Spanish court in 1529, but the Spaniards kept chocolate a closely held secret until 1660. In that year, the Spanish Princess Maria Theresa married Louis XIV, and she arrived in France with enormous wooden chests full of cacao and servants whose sole task was to grind the beans on a metata....Louis purportedly commented that his wife didn't need his company as long as she had her chocolate, her servants, and her dwarves, but eventually her chocolate – like Marie Theresa herself – grew on the Sun King. Records at Versailles include explicit instructions for how Louis liked his chocolate – stirred constantly in the pot with one egg yolk until rich and very thick."


Gianduja Appears in Turin

"Since the 1600s, the Italian town of Turin has been known for its chocolate. Legend has it that during the Napoleonic Wars, as cacao became scarce because of the blockade that kept ships from reaching Italy, confectioners stretched their chocolate supply by adding ground hazelnuts, which grew abundantly in the Piedmont region. The mixture of dark chocolate, sugar, and hazelnut paste known as gianduja [pronounced Gee-an-DOO-ya] first appeared in the mid-1800s and was called givu -- stub in Italian – because it was rolled into cylinders. In 1867, the treat appeared at Piedmont's Carnival in the shape of a carnival mask and was called giandujotta, which means small mask. Gianduja is still very popular in Europe and has a growing number of fans in the States, perhaps because a paste made from finely ground fresh hazelnuts gives chocolate a creamy consistency even when no cream is added, and because people like the hazelnut flavor."


Please enjoy other posts: "Was the First Chocolate Really Beer?"

"Why Is It Called Devil's Food?"

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