Hot chocolate is the sweetest comfort food invernale, perfect to sip to warm up and pamper yourself. And, despite its apparent simplicity, it can be prepared in many variations: with different types of chocolate, flavored with spices, enriched with coffee or rum, without sugar or milk, to satisfy everyone’s palates and needs. There is no danger of making a mistake: in any version it is still very good! Let’s find out more about how she was born, it has spread e it has evolved over time this drink.
The origins of hot chocolate
L’ancestor of hot chocolate has very ancient roots: it even dates back toera of the Maya. Her name was xocoatl and it was very different from the drink we are used to today: made with cocoa, beans, water and pepper, had a bitter and spicy taste and was reserved for special occasions. After the discovery of America, cocoa, and with it hot chocolate, also spread to Europe. Legend has it that it was the Aztec Emperor Montezuma II, on the occasion of his first meeting with the Spanish explorer Hernan Cortés, who introduced him to this drink he greatly loved, which Aztecs they were served cold and made with cocoa, vanilla and spices. It is precisely to Cortés that we owe the importation of cocoa beans to the Old Continent, where hot chocolate also began to establish itself in the seventeenth century.
Hot chocolate, an aristocratic and intellectual drink
Initially, due to the very high cost of cocoaonly the aristocrats they could afford hot chocolate. The habit of sipping this drink, widespread in high society, also led to the birth of elegant chocolate pots in which to serve it, in porcelain and silver. In Italy as in England, in the eighteenth century the “Chocolate House“, or the “Chocolate houses“, in which nobles and intellectuals met to discuss while tasting this drink.
The hot chocolate also boasts illustrious literary quotations. Mozartwho was a great admirer of it, mentions it in the work “Cosi fan tutte, or The School of Lovers “: and the “chocolates” which the waitress Despina prepares for her mistress and which, seduced by its irresistible aroma, tastes before serving. Also Goldonipassionate about this drink, inserts tastings of hot chocolate in his comedies “The coffee shop“e “The innkeeper“.
In the end Manzoniis “The betrothed“, describes a steaming cup of chocolate that the superior offers to the young nun of Monza to give her relief from the harshness of monastic life. Indeed in high ecclesiastical circleswhere until the eighteenth century hot chocolate was banned because it was considered too lustful a pleasure, this drink then began to be consumed as restorative. Already then, evidently, the situation was clear comforting and regenerating power of this comfort food.
How the ingredients of hot chocolate have changed over time
But how has hot chocolate changed over time? In the 1565 the book “History of the New World“, written by the Italian botanist Girolamo Benzoni to describe his trip to Central America, tells how this drink was prepared from American populations: con fire-dried, stone-ground cocoa beans dissolved in water and sometimes flavored with spices.
That was when hot chocolate became widespread in Europe in the seventeenth centurywhich began to be used as an ingredient solidified cocoa paste in tabletswhich came grated at the moment to prepare it. In the twentieth century, cocoa paste was replaced by powder.
The merit of having introduced the use of milk instead of water instead, to dilute the cocoa, go to the garlic Englishwho made this change to the recipe in 1700.
In Italia, hot chocolate made its appearance at the beginning of the seventeenth century thanks to the Florentine merchant Francesco d’Antonio Carletti, returning from a trip to America. Compared to the Spanish recipe, which called for it to be prepared with cocoa, water, sugar, vanilla and cinnamonin Italian salons this drink was personalized with the addition of other ingredients, in particular of aromashow’s that of jasmine, cedar and lemon.
The many variations of hot chocolate
Typically the hot chocolate it is prepared with bitter cocoa powder, milk, sugar and corn starch (or potato starch or rice flour) to thicken, or with grated dark chocolate, milk, chocolate and sugar, and can be served alone or accompanied by cream whipped.
But alongside the traditional recipe they exist many variations of this drink, which can be customized according to one’s tastes and choices at the table.
Call her spiced hot chocolate, can flavor it with spices such as cinnamon, walnut, nutmeg, cloves and star anise or with chilli pepper or vanilla. Also there tea hot chocolate it is a very aromatic variant, which you can prepare by simply infusing a tea bag in hot milk before adding it to cocoa or chocolate: it is excellent with matcha tea, a very fine Japanese green tea.
It is possible to enrich the hot chocolate with coffeecon chopped dried fruit such as pistachios and hazelnuts, with orange peel or with salted caramel, which will create a delicious contrast of flavours. Or add an alcoholic note with rum o with an amaretto or orange liqueur.
Anyone who doesn’t like the bitter taste of cocoa and dark chocolate can prepare one hot chocolate with milk chocolate o gianduiaor bet on one White chocolate.
For a’vegetable alternativehot chocolate can also be made with soy, rice, almond or coconut drinks instead of traditional cow’s milk. Or using hot wateras in the original recipe, to dilute the cocoa powder or the dark chocolate melted in a bain-marie.
Also try it Viennese hot chocolatewhich provides for theadding egg yolk traditional ingredients during preparation and served with whipped cream.
Finally the marshmallow chocolatesweetened with these soft and sugary cylinders instead of sugar, it is an Anglo-Saxon-inspired hot chocolate that will make children go crazy, but adults will also like it.
Not sure which variant of hot chocolate to start with? Don’t worry: winter has just begun, you have plenty of time to taste them all!