Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cocoa – it’s sacred, so drink up!

Everybody knows chocolate.  And all those who know it love it. Or maybe, love it a little less, but ‘hate’ it – ah, methinks there are but a few of them around……

Anyway this post, all you lovers and haters - is about two delicious new ways to drink chocolate. That is right folks, I said ‘drink ‘. And like my title says, Cocoa is sacred – so what better way to bring some sacredness into your lives?

The cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, originated in South America, and its beans consumed as a drink by the Mayans and Aztecs. It was introduced to Spain by Hernan Cort├ęs in1528. After the addition of sugar, the drink became popular and Spain set up cocoa plantations in its West Indies colonies to meet demand.
Colmenero de Ledesma (1631) reported that cacao preserved consumers’ health, made them corpulent, improved their complexions, and made their dispositions more agreeable. He wrote that drinking chocolate incited love-making, led to conception in women, and facilitated delivery. He also claimed that chocolate aided digestion and cured tuberculosis.

Enough said. Onto my chocolate drinks.

Hershey and Nestle  made ‘hot chocolate’ a household term. There is a difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate. The terms are often used interchangeably, but technically they are as different as white chocolate and bittersweet chocolate. Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, which is chocolate pressed free of all its richness, meaning the fat of cocoa butter.  Hot chocolate is made from chocolate bars melted into cream. It is a rich decadent drink.

Okay first the Asian version, that I had in a little chocolate den in Hong Kong years ago.

Asian Hot Chocolate - HongKong style
  • 6 ounces fine-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • 3 cups hot milk, divided
  • Sugar to taste
  • 2 cardamom pods, 4 clove buds
  • Whipped cream, if desired
In a double boiler over low heat, combine chocolate and 1/4 cup water until melted, stirring occasionally; stir until smooth. Add coarsely ground cardamom and clove buds. Remove top of double boiler pan from. Whisk in 3 tablespoons hot water. Pour into pitcher or divide among individual 4 mugs. Either stir 3/4 cup hot milk into each mug or serve milk in a separate pitcher. Pass sugar and whipped cream in separate bowls; add to taste.

Makes 4 servings. YUM!

Now the African (Caribbean, actually) version I had in the Virgin Islands last Christmas……nice warm cold drink!

African Hot Rum Chocolate
Mmm… frothy and tasty. With its smooth, strong full-bodied taste this drink is popular in the Caribbean, Ghana and also with West African ex-pats in London. Its origins are North African. The rum is a great addition! It makes a great nightcap – a nice way of winding down after a hard day’s work or a special meal.
  • 500 ml whole milk
  • 100 g best quality organic dark chocolate, broken into small pieces (also called bitter chocolate as it is produced without sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons clear honey
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence (try to use real extract)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 15 -30 ml dark rum, to taste
Pour the milk into a small saucepan then add the chocolate, along with the honey, sugar and cinnamon stick.
Heat and stir gently until the chocolate melts. Add the vanilla and rum.
Remove the cinnamon stick just before serving in two large mugs.
Extra sugar can be added to taste.