Lady Elinor Fettisplace’s Chocolate Creams

This Elizabethan dessert could well be England’s earliest chocolate recipe. This version comes from Hilary Spurling’s book Lady Elinor Fettisplace’s Elizabethan Recipe Book.

Ingredients

To make chocolate cream

  • Take a quart of cream, 3 ounces of Chocolate grated, boyle it well together & let it stand till tis cold, & yn put ye whites of 6 Eggs beaten to a Froth & sweeten it to your Taste, So then mill it up

Method

Chocolate from the New World began to be sold in England in the 1650s: the first London chocolate house was opened in 1657; White’s Club in St James’ started life as another shortly afterwards, by which time chocolate was well on the way to becoming an exceedingly fashionable drink. This mixture makes one of those semi-solid confections like a syllabub, part dessert, part thick, frothy drink:

For 6 generous glassfuls, scald cups (1 pint/600 ml) of light (single) cream by bringing it to a boil, then coarsely grate in 2 or 3 oz (50 or 75 g) of the best-quality bittersweet (dark) chocolate (this is double the amount specified above, but the cocoa butter in natural cocoa beans made 17th-century chocolate richer than ours), and simmer the mixture gently for a few minutes. When it is quite cold, beat 3 egg whites until they stand in peaks, with a heaped tablespoon of sugar (more if you like a sweeter taste), and fold in the chocolate cream. Beat it well: “mill it up” meant whipping the mixture with a specially designed, notched wooden chocolate beater or mill which has been used for centuries*.

Pour the cream into glasses, leave it to set in the refrigerator, and serve with more grated chocolate on the top. It should develop a stiff foam, or head, so much liked in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with a runnier chocolate underneath – less cloying than chocolate mousse, frothier and more ethereal than a cold soufflé set with gelatine.

*Molinillo – a Mexican invention, widely used in the preparation of drinking chocolate.

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