That luscious brown candy we know as chocolate originates with the cacao tree from Central America. Cacao pods were picked by the ancient Aztecs and Mayans to process into a powder. This powder was mixed with spices and made into a frothy, bitter drink. The word “chocolate” comes from xocoatl or chocoatl, which means, “foam water.”
When the Spanish hit the shores of Mexico in the 1500s, they were introduced to the bitter drink the Aztecs loved. They took it back with them to Spain, where chefs discovered new ways to use it. It was kept hidden in Spain for almost a hundred years before other European countries discovered it. It quickly became a favored beverage of the royal families and their courts. Over the next 300 years, the Europeans came up with specialized china sets to use when drinking their newfound beverage. These sets are very hard to find today.
The Europeans added sugar, cinnamon and other spices to their hot chocolate drinks. Sweetened hot chocolate became popular throughout Europe. Hot chocolate was made by melting hardened chocolate in cream. To keep the stock available, many plantations were established to grow cacao. They were staffed by both paid laborers and slaves.
The industrial revolution also revolutionized the industry. It became affordable for more people. The invention of the cocoa press made it possible to make the smooth, creamy treats many of us enjoy today as well as drinking it as a beverage.
These desserts are now served all over. Pies, cakes, candies, and cookies are all made with it. You can also find more of it used in Mexican desserts. While they still love their hot chocolate beverage, they are happy to utilize this ingredient in a lot more recipes.
Today, it is used in more ways than ever before. We enjoy it as a dessert, a snack or added to main dishes. Many of its chemicals are also used in cosmetics and medications. Its by-products are used as cattle feed in the countries where cacao is grown.
Today, cacao beans are fermented, dried, cleaned, roasted, and then ground in order to be processed into the confections we love to eat. Dark chocolate has become known for its health benefits. The higher the percentage of cacao, the healthier it is.
Many holidays have adopted it as part of their celebration. Valentine’s Day features boxes of it given as signs of love. Chocolate rabbits and eggs are the rule for Easter. Halloween is happy to use any treat made with it as well as other candies. Even Christmas and Hanukkah have special creations given in stockings and as gifts. It is often given as a sign of affection during courtship in many places.
It can currently be found as dark, milk, and white chocolate. The color is from the cocoa solids in the mixture. Milk chocolate is much sweeter than dark because it also contains condensed or powdered milk. White chocolate is not considered true chocolate by some people because it does not contain any cocoa solids, only cocoa butter.
In a rush? Why not make some easy Mexican recipes for dinner? You can cook a delicious carne asada on your stovetop in about half an hour. Serve it with some Mexican rice or a fresh salad for a fast weeknight meal. Your family will love it.Like this blog post? Buy me a coffee or send me a tip!!!