Famed chocolatier and cookbook author Alice Medrich once told me in an interview:
“Of all the special, ‘gourmet foods,’ chocolate is one of the only ones we have all loved since childhood. It’s not an acquired taste. Maybe we liked milk chocolate and have grown to like bittersweet, but it’s always been there for us. We didn’t have to learn to like it, like coffee, wine or caviar.”
Chocolate, one of the world’s favorite delicacies, has a rich and thrilling history, as we learn in “On the Chocolate Trail” by Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz, who takes us on a virtual gastronomic adventure through many cultures over many centuries.
And now the community is invited to hear Prinz speak at a Chocolate Fantasy Luncheon at noon on Jan. 13 at Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton. You need not be a temple member (or even be Jewish) to join in on the fun.
A delicious catered lunch will be served, and then – bring on the chocolate! Tickets are $13 for temple members and $18 for non-members. Call the temple office for reservations: 714-871-3535. Books will be available for purchase and signing.
At once a travelogue, history, memoir and recipe collection, “On the Chocolate Trail” chronicles the journeys of Rabbi Prinz and her husband, Rabbi Mark Hurvitz, as they followed the chocolate trail, tasting their way around the world – hey, it was research – through France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland, England and Israel, uncovering the fascinating history of chocolate along the way.
The Latin name for the cacao tree translates to “food of the gods,” and no wonder, but did you know that for centuries, beginning with the Aztecs, chocolate was used only as a drink? Montezuma is said to have imbibed 50 cups of it a day from a golden chalice.
We learn that cacao beans were considered so valuable by early Mesoamericans, they used them as currency and that Inquisition jails in Spain allowed the drinking of chocolate by prisoners.
Historical chapters are interspersed with luscious recipes, a chocolate glossary, suggestions for selecting the best ethically produced chocolate, tips for cooking with chocolate, a list of sweet chocolate museums and tours around the world, as well as a timeline of the religious history of chocolate.
“From chocolate use in religious settings, we learn food wisdoms about chocolate eating as a potentially sacred endeavor,” writes Rabbi Prinz, who shows the intersections of Jews, pre-Columbians, Catholics and Protestants along the chocolate trail.
We learn the Mayan “Book of Counsel” taught that gods created humans from chocolate and maize; that chocolate was first introduced to the Spanish court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella by Dominicans; that Jews are credited with bringing chocolate making to France; and that the bishop of Chiapas, Mexico, was poisoned because he prohibited local women from drinking chocolate during Mass.
New Year’s Eve festivities call for the finest ingredients, and these decadent Cognac Truffles bring elegance to any celebration. This recipe is from Lisa Hoffman, a refugee who fled Germany in 1939.
“These truffles,” she said, “make a wonderful present and are the ultimate in chocolate richness.”
Fullerton’s Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook.” Her website is cookingjewish.com.
From “On the Chocolate Trail” by Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz
Yields about 30-35
2 ounces unsalted butter
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 pound bittersweet or dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream (fresh, not ultra-pasteurized)
1/2 cup quality cognac (or rum or a liqueur)
Cocoa, finely chopped nuts, or powdered sugar, for rolling
1. Line baking sheet with waxed paper. In large heatproof bowl set over pan of simmering water, heat butter and sugar until melted and dissolved. Add chocolate and stir continuously with wire whisk until it starts to melt. Add cream; continue to stir with whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Add cognac. Stir until thoroughly integrated.
2. Refrigerate overnight, or set bowl over ice bath and continue whisking until cool (this technique creates a lighter truffle and allows you to complete them sooner).
3. Use 2 teaspoons to form chocolate balls, and roll in cocoa, finely chopped nuts, or powdered sugar. Place chocolate balls on prepared baking sheet. Store in cool place in covered container.
Source: Oc Register