French is the language of love, and chocolate is the epitome of divine indulgence. What can be more decadent, than French chocolate? Though chocolate was first used in some parts of Mexico and Spain, French chocolate has a charm of its own.
Chocolate was introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century when Christopher Columbus carried back cacao beans to Spain from his voyages in America. Although it remained a Spanish secret for nearly a decade, the fame of chocolate began to spread, and it started to be known in England, Germany, the Netherlands, and France. Chocolate was first introduced to France in 1615. It was a wedding gift to the 14-year-old King Louis XIII from his betrothed – Anne of Austria. She is the one who is said to be the ‘originator’ of chocolate in France.
Chocolate in those days was only for the nobility and the upper class. An expensive and exotic item, it was also considered to be an aphrodisiac by many. Thanks to its soothing nature and the mild stimulatory kick it provided, it was almost considered to be a recreational drug.
In those days, chocolate was consumed primarily in liquid form. French confectioners would blend the cacao beans with milk or water, and add additional flavors like coffee, vanilla, and cloves.
Chocolate grew popular amongst the Kings and Queens of France, and confectioners were appointed by the nobles and the royal family to make them their daily cup of chocolate. Confectioners, thus, were highly trained and regarded in high esteem in this period. King Louis XIV was known to be a great lover of chocolate. He was the first one to introduce chocolate to the court of Versailles.
When Marie Antoinette married King Louis XVI and arrived at Versailles, she brought along her personal chocolate maker. She started the day with a cup of thick creamy hot chocolate topped with cream. She is also the one who started consuming chocolate with some sugar so that it toned down the bitterness and became easier to have (when meant to be taken as a medicine).
As the popularity of the miracle cacao bean grew, factories began popping up in order to increase production. David Chaillou opened the first chocolate factory in Paris in 1659. In 1732, Debuisson created the first table to grind cocoa beans, which made the preparation of chocolate easier.
In the 19th century, chocolate became accessible to the masses as commercial production on large scales increased. The first such commercial chocolate factory was set up in the Pyrenees in 1814. At this time, chocolate was still considered to be a medicine, and the big player in the game was a pharmaceutical company called Menier (now a part of Nestle). Towards the early 19th century, more chocolate shops started to open and chocolate became more accessible to the general public. In 1884, the first breakfast with chocolate and vanilla cream was invented in France. In the early twentieth century, chocolate shops were common in towns and cities and it became customary for people to give chocolate as a gift. And chocolate remains the perfect gift for any occasion world over, even today.
A simple dessert to make with French chocolate is dark chocolate truffles. Add about 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate to 2/3 cups of hot cream. Add a couple of drops of vanilla extract. Freeze the mixture for a few hours until it is hard enough to roll into balls. Roll it into spheres and coat them with cacao powder. You can also add some crushed pistachios to the coating for a little extra "Je ne sais quoi". Et voila! Yum at first bite.
You can find the detailed recipe and many others at https://www.thespruce.com/french-chocolate-
Merci to Tanya Sen for the blog post submission.