Wednesday, November 24, 2010

French Chocolate History Tidbits

As you know, Sisters and Brothers, we like to celebrate the history of chocolate and it's role in the world here at The Chocolate Cult.  Your Chocolate Priestess was curious about when chocolate came to France and went and did some research among her chocolate books and online.

Chocolate made it's biggest impact in France with the marriage of Anne of Austria, the daughter of Philip II of Spain to Louis XIII of France on November 24, 1615.  The Spanish, of course, found cacao when they conquered parts of Mexico and Mesoamerica.  As with all of Europe, chocolate was originally a drink and it was first enjoyed among the courtiers and the most wealthy in France.  It remained a very expensive treat until the French took control of Cuba and Haiti in 1684 and established their own cocoa plantations.  When I type plantations, yes, you should be thinking of slave labor because that is indeed what was used.

Found here: http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/Nicolas-De-Mathoniere/The-Double-Marriage-In-1615-Of-Louis-XIII-1601-43-To-Anne-Of-Austria-1601-66-And-Philip-Of-Austria-1605-65-Future-Philip-IV-Of-Spain-To-Elizabeth-Of-France-1602-44.html


Today the French are considered one of the traditional chocolate makers and their processes are known worldwide. Indeed some American chocolatiers boast of their French techniques and being trained in France.  For most of us, buying French chocolate is an expensive prospect but we can find French products with chocolate in them if we look.

In my local co-op called Bloomingfoods, I can find products from around the world and there I found these cookies from Roland that are made in France.  These Chocolate Tartlettes were on sale and very reasonably priced when I used my membership card and the monthly coupon.  This 7.05oz bag didn't explicitedly say it had nuts but I discovered it had hazelnuts, not a big surprise from Europe, when I looked more closely at the ingredients when I got it home.

There are about 12 cookies in the bag or 6 servings so each cookie is rather rich.  A serving has 160 calories made of 3.5g saturated fat, <5mg cholesterol, 75mg sodium, 1g fiber, 8g sugars, and 2g protein with some calcium and iron.  These did not taste sweet but creamy and they made a good crunch.  I was very pleased by them though saddened that I couldn't share them because of the nuts.  The package isn't easily reusable so you'll either need to share or store else where if you can manage to avoid gobbling them all down.

A French chocolate I'm sure you can find almost any where in the USA and Canada has to be the Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate bars.  I can find them in almost any pharmacy in South Central Indiana so I'm betting you can find it in California, Quebec, Florida, let me know if you haven't heard of these bars, Sisters and Brothers.  I've reviewed the 90% and 85% before, I've even had the 99% which you really should use for baking.  Today I wanted to look at the 70%.  At 70% we are in the health benefits range but not so bitter that the majority of you won't even want to try.  I know you White and Milk Chocolate lovers are sad when you hear the health benefits only apply to higher cacao but remember you can still have those treats in moderation, just not every day.

One 3.5oz bar which I can find in so many different stores at the 70% mark, has 2.5 servings or 4 sections of the bar per 220 calories.  Those calories are made of 10g saturated fat (ouch!), 20mg sodium, 2g fiber, 11g sugars, 3g protein, with $5 calcium and 10% iron you need every day.  When I saw that amount for the saturated fat (OUCH), I knew I had to point out this is 1/2 the amount of that type of fat an adult should limit herself to each day.  Best to eat square I think and stretch this bar into 10 servings.  Taste wise this is wonderful, you get the bitterness and the buzz, a hint of sweet, it satisfies and makes your eyes feel like you can see the world in a brighter way.

Of course, our deceased French monarchs wouldn't have had treat quite like these.  They were still looking at chocolate as a drink, a spicy one as that.  Over the course of the next century that would start to change as pastries and candies would begin to appear with added milk, sugar and fewer and fewer hot or savory spices.  Chocolate had to begin somewhere in French at some point to have the treats I liked at today available to us now.  We have Spanish princess Anne to thank for that.

3 comments:

Mama Cupcake said...

ooooo..I want some!

dailyfoodporn said...

I didn't know Lindt was French. You can't be Swisser than them. LOL. You should look for Valrhona, I think it's exported over the world (I get it in Japan) and it's quality.
Actually, the story of French chocolate is more complex.
It's linked to general history of Europe. When Spain finished it Reconquista, they pushed the Jews out to Portugal, which pushed them out... so they went to France, Russia... and a number of them had been trained in making chocolate, so they opened shops, for instance in Biarritz North-Ouest of France, and later in other European cities. They started the tradition of boutiques of luxury "hand-made chocolates". They are sold mostly "fresh" in the boutique where they make them, or in import luxury food corners at ridiculous prices.
Besides, the Dutch and Belgian developed industrial processing, cheaper chocolate and cocoa for the mass. The Swiss, even worse, they opened chocolate factories to sell their excess of milk or hazelnuts. Well roughly, as all levels from crap to divine exist in each country. And surely, if you go to French supermarket, you'll find that Lindt (Swiss) and Cote d'Or (Belgian) have 2/3 of the chocolate shelve. Few people can eat only the products of the "chocolatiers".
Gourmande in Osaka

TheChocolatePriestess said...

Hi, dailyfoodporn, this was a tidbit focused on one particular date, not a full history lesson. The research I did says that Lindt & Sprüngli were French and the bar I had said "product of France" on it. I'm sure the bars made be made elsewhere but I have to give the history as I find it.

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