I love baking, cooking, and creating recipes with chocolate. I cannot imagine walking into the kitchen to bake and not have access to chocolate. Chocolate makes everything sweeter. Ask any kid. I have never met any kid or adult that would turn down a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, steaming cup of hot chocolate, or chocolate covered strawberry.
We recently researched chocolate as part of my baking curriculum and what I learned really changed my outlook on this amazing ingredient. We all know of how chocolate was brought to Europe by the conquistadores. The Aztecs idolized chocolate. Chocolatl derived from the Nahuatl word Xocolatl was served during important ceremonies and was given to the soldiers to improve their stamina, helping to fight off fatigue. What I wanted to find out is how chocolate found its way into our kitchen.
Chocolatl derived from the Nahuatl word "xocolatl" made up from the words "xococ" meaning sour or bitter, and "atl" meaning water or drink.
What I learned is that between Central Mexico and western Honduras cacao was taken to another level for cooking. At the time the only part of the cacao that was eaten was the white pulp. Not wanting to waste any part of pod, the seeds were treated as they would treat all produce. The pumpkin seeds, chiles, and extra corn left from harvest were left in the sun to dry, and then roasted on a comal to grind for cooking. A technique used for produce transformed cacao from a bitter taste to sweet paste. The heat from the sun and the roasting on the comal released the natural oil from the beans. Grinding the beans with its oil created a sweet paste that was formed into little balls to dry for later use. This development opened the window for experimenting with chocolate. Herbs, flowers, spices, and honey were added to create new flavors of chocolate. This method is still used today in Mexico.
How lucky we are to have this gift from our past. For our past to give us a wonderful treasure to enjoy daily makes me treasure chocolate even more. I wanted to share a simple recipe that highlights the flavors of that day when cacao was first laid to dry in the sun next to pumpkin seeds and chiles.
Spicy Chocolate Bark
12 ounces dark chocolate or semi sweet chocolate
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¾ teaspoon Mexican cinnamon, grated with a zester
¾ teaspoon ancho chile powder, plus more for garnish
½ cup pumpkin seeds
On a baking sheet toast pumpkin seeds at 350 degrees for 4 minutes. Cool.
Melt chocolate. Add spices and more than half of the pumpkin seeds.
Stir to incorporate the spices. Spread chocolate on wax paper. Lightly press the left over pumpkin seeds and sprinkle ancho chile for color.
Freeze for 5 minutes or until chocolate sets. Break into pieces. Serve.
Store in fridge.
Angelica ~ A 12yr old homeschooler with dreams of becoming a pastry chef.
Addicted to comics, food network, and carnival rides, Angelica loves taking over her mom's kitchen. She is currently working on perfecting her pie crust while her family reaps the benefits. You can find her sharing her baking skills over at Sweet Life.