Time for more of the receipts that were used to make chocolate
dishes during Deb Peterson’s workshop at the 2014 Mid-Atlantic
regional ALHFAM conference, which was held this past spring
at the Peter Wentz Farmstead.
Let’s start with a receipt from Frederick Nutt’s The Complete
Confectioner, or, the Whole Art of Confectionary (1790):
No. 51. Chocolate Drops.
Take one pound and a half of chocolate,
put it on your pewter sheet or plate,
and put it in the oven just to warm
the chocolate; then put it into a copper
stewpan, with three quarters of a pound
of powdered sugar, mix it well over the
fire, take it off, and roll it in size of small
marbles, put them on white paper, and
when they are all on, take the sheet
of paper by each corner, and lift it up
and down, so that the paper may touch
the table each time, and by that means
you will see the drops come quite flat,
about the size of sixpence; put some
sugar nonpareils over them, and cover
all that is on the paper, and then shake
them off, and you will see all the chocolate
drops are covered with the sugar nonpareils;
let them stand till cold, and they will come
off well, and then put them in your box papered.
We made the tasty treats above using a receipt from E. Smith’s
The Compleat Housewife (originally published in 1727):
To make Chocolate Almonds.
Take a pound of chocolate finely grated,
and a pound and half of the best sugar
finely sifted; then soak gum dragant
in orange-flower water, and work them
into what form you please; the past[e]
must be stiff; dry them in a stove.
There’s also a receipt for these in Mrs. Mary Eales’ Receipts,
by Mary Eales (1733; first edition, 1718). It’s a bit different
than the above, as it calls for several spices. Note, also, that
the instructions for drying them are the complete opposite
of those in Smith’s receipt:
To make Chocolate-Almonds.
Take two Pound of fine sifted Sugar,
half a Pound of Chocolate grated,
and sifted thro’ an Hair Sieve,
a Grain of Musk, a Grain of Amber,
and two Spoonfuls of Ben; make this
up to a stiff Paste with Gum-Dragon
steep’d well in Orange-Flower-Water;
beat it well in a Mortar; make it
in a Mould like Almonds; lay them
to dry on Papers, but not in a Stove.
Hmmm, so what the heck is “Ben”?! Not to mention, you need
“two Spoonfuls” of him, er, it. Unfortunately, my Oxford English
Dictionary (OED) is buried deep inside my dead computer. dagnabit
I do, however, have my hard-bound facsimile of Noah Webster’s
1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. Here’s what
BEN or BEN-NUT, n. A purgative fruit
or nut, the largest of which resembles
a filbert, yielding an oil used in pharmacy.
Interesting! Even more so is the idea of adding it to a dish made
with chocolate. I looked further online and discovered the Ben-nut
comes from the Moringa, which is:
(botany) A genus of trees of Southern India
and Northern Africa. One species (Moringa
pterygosperma) is the horse-radish tree,
and its seeds…are known in commerce
as ben or ben nuts, and yield the oil
called oil of ben.*
So, “two Spoonfuls of Ben” means two measures of the oil made
from the nuts of the Moringa tree, which is similar to olive oil,
albeit a bit lighter. Learn something new every day, yes?!
Let’s get back to our “chocolate-as-food” receipts. Here’s the last
one from the workshop, which is also in Nutt’s book:
No. 18. Chocolate Biscuits.
Take a quarter of a pound of chocolate,
and put it on a tin, over a stove to make
it warm, then put a pound of powdered
sugar in a bason, and when the chocolate
is quite warm and soft, put it in with the
sugar, and mix it well with about eight
whites of eggs, if you find it too thin,
mix more powdered sugar with it just
to bring it to a paste, so that you can
roll it in lumps as big as walnuts: let
your oven be moderate, put three
papers under them, let the oven just
raise them and make them crisp and
firm, and let them be quite cold before
you take them off the paper.
Apparently, these biscuits were rather popular, as I found receipts
for them in four other 18th century cookbooks. The earliest is
in John Nott’s 1723 work, The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary.
And, as with the Chocolate Tart of the previous post, his version
is similar to the above. Which means, of course, that Nutt copied
Nott (think I got that right; dang similar names! but yes, John Nott
came before Frederick Nutt). Some food historians, however, think
that Nott plagiarized, er, I mean, “borrowed” heavily from other,
earlier authors, too, so…well, perhaps turn-about IS fair play?
Nevertheless, receipts for Chocolate Biscuits can also be found
in both the work of Spanish author Juan de La Mata, entitled
Arte de reposteria (1747), and The French Family Cook: Being
a Complete System of French Cookery, by Menon (translated
1793 into English from the French of 1747). Interestingly, all
four receipts are largely similar, save for a few minor details.
The biggest difference is that Menon’s calls for the use of flour,
which may make them more of a bread-type biscuit, as opposed
to a small cake (aka cookie) or even a meringue. Oddly enough,
we added flour (albeit rice flour) to ours during the workshop.
Then there’s the fifth receipt, which also resembles the others,
and yet, it differs from them in one respect: it uses almonds. It’s
in The Court and Country Confectioner (1770), by a Mr. Borella.
Based on the contents of his receipt, the end-result will definitely
be more of a flat, small cake (aka cookie) or cracker.
It’d be an interesting experiment to try out all five of the above
Chocolate Biscuit receipts. Perhaps, some day. And if anyone out
there gets to it before I do, I hope you’ll share your experiences!
* Definition found online HERE. Interestingly, you can buy moringa oils
online, even from amazon.com. Whether the products shown are for use
in food, though, is a whole other matter. Oh, wait! Here’s edible moringa
(aka ben) oil. Wow! You can purchase it by the barrel. Whodathunk?!