For those of you that don’t know, my day job (when I’m not planting things, cooking things, or brewing things here at DLH!) is making chocolate from bean to bar at Hummingbird Chocolate Makers.
A New Passion
Making chocolate turned out to be a passion I didn’t even know I had. I immediately fell in love with the intricate process, and the immense history of chocolate as soon as I started working there. And for the record, we are chocolate makers, not chocolatiers. Chocolatiers are wonderfully talented people, but they do not produce their own chocolate. They purchase large chunks of pre made chocolate and turn it into beautiful treats, like truffles or bonbons. A chocolate maker purchases cacao beans, and turns them into chocolate through a process of roasting, grinding and refining. A process that can take up to 2 months! With lots of chocolate tasting of course.
A Rich History
The history of chocolate in particular is something that I found fascinating. It isn’t something I’d looked into very hard or thought much about until starting this job, despite loving chocolate. Chocolate as we know it today is quite different from what it was, as far back as 4,000 years ago. Cacao beans were (and are still) grown in the jungles of Central and South America. The trees are comparatively short for jungle trees, and prefer the shade. This makes them good companion trees for things like fruit and coffee. The large pods that sprout off each tree contain beans, which for a very long time were used as currency. But, as well as currency, the beans were roasted over an open fire, ground up and made into a bitter frothy coffee style drink. And that is how cacao was consumed for thousands of years.
My Book Recommendations
Some books I recommend for those of you interested in learning more about the history and process of chocolate making:
- The New Taste of Chocolate
- The True History of Chocolate
- Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S’Mores
- The Chocolate Tree: A Natural History of Cacao
A Sweet Treat Forms
It wasn’t until the spanish came to the Americas that the bitter drink was eventually brought back to Europe. Even then, it was simply consumed in the same way. Sipped as a hot drink by fancy Spanish elites. Quite quickly, the Spanish began adding sugar, or honey, and cream to their drinking cacao to make it more palatable. And it didn’t become a solid eating treat until the Swiss got a hold of it. (which was only a couple hundred years ago!)
Sweetening the drink, and adding cream to it, did eventually make it’s way back to the Americas. But by that point chocolate was ingrained in history as a decadent treat!
The drinking chocolate recipe I’m sharing today, is made with chocolate and milk. Not quite traditional, but absolutely decadent! At the shop throughout the winter we serve a version of this drinking chocolate, but with water instead of milk. (since we have a large vegan/dairy free customer base.) The liquid can be whatever your taste or diet prefers. I have made it with cream, almond milk, and coffee. All are superb in their own ways.
Choose your Chocolate Wisely
Choosing good quality chocolate will make or break this drink. Since it is so rich, and you really don’t need much for a serving, you don’t want to skimp on cheap chocolate. Do your best to find one that you really love the flavour of, and that doesn’t have too many ingredients. Really good chocolates should only have 2-3 ingredients (cacao, sugar, cacao butter). At Hummingbird, we sell small bricks that we call Baking Chocolate that are perfect for this. It is simply chocolate that hasn’t been tempered, so it’s easier to melt and chop up. It has the same amount of sugar as any 70% dark chocolate, but by not going through the tempering process, it’s much easier to work with.
This is the perfect treat for a cold evening by the fire or a soul warming cup to have after a bad day. It makes me feel chipper on those mornings where I’m not always thrilled to be getting up early to work. And i’s lovely with flavour additives, and of course, cookies.
Some Yummy Flavour Additions:
- Cayenne or Chipote
- Peppermint essential oil
- Orange zest
- Almond Extract or essential oil
If you need a change for your morning routine or are simply looking for a tasty addition to your coffee this should definitely make it into your day somehow. I promise, you won’t regret it!
Rich & Creamy Drinking Chocolate
- 200 grams High Quality Chocolate See Note Below
- 200 grams Milk or Cream of your choice you can also use water, or coffee
- spices or flavourings of your choice optional
- Place your chocolate in a heat proof bowl, and set it over a small pot of water. Gently bring the water to a simmer and allow the chocolate in the bowl to melt, stirring occasionally. Try your best not to get any droplets of condensation in the chocolate. Once fully melted, set aside.
- Heat up your milk or other liquid to nearly simmering. You can do this in a small pot on the stove, or in the microwave.
- When your milk is good and hot, pour it over your melted chocolate and immediately whisk it. Continue whisking until it’s fully combined, smooth, and creamy.
- Stir in any flavours you want and serve. This is wonderfully rich, and so I would serve this amount to 4 people in tiny amounts. Espresso cups are a good choice. If you are a real lover of rich chocolate, go ahead and make the servings as big as you like.