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Chocolate: the versatility of an addictive ingredient

Wikispanishfood.com editorial team

There are various theories about the word chocolate, but the most plausible is that it comes from Nauhualt, the Aztec language, in which xococ means bitter and alt means water.It was called "bitter water", which is how the Mexicans drank it, until sugar was added by the Spanish. As is the case with other products brought over from America, Europe has Spain to thank for introducing this singular food which, although having been around for almost five centuries, now seems to be enjoying its moment of glory.

 Chocolate's entry into the world of baking represented a fundamental milestone in man's eating habits. It's the main ingredient in countless recipes, due to its chameleonic characteristics. It can be used as either a coating or a filling, and we can dissolve it, sip it, drink it and even chew it, as it's available in multiple formats.

A long lack of appreciation in Europe

After Hernán Cortés brought it over to the Peninsula on his galleons, chocolate was for a long time misunderstood in the “Old World”, until it finally become an international beverage for social occasions, like Chinese tea and Arabic coffee.

Spain's sweet tooth paved the way for a quick and positive reception by artisan pastry makers, who started to coat and dip their cakes and doughnuts in chocolate. They discovered that, when making chocolate, it's important to use an aromatic variety of cocoa and to follow all of the steps required for roasting so as to preserve the aromas.

Many people throughout history have declared their love for chocolate. Napoleon used to eat it to stay awake during war, and Voltaire, Cardinal Richelieu, Goethe and Agatha Christie, among many other famous people, were chocolate addicts.

Recipes and proverbs

Chocolate became very popular during World War II, as US troops distributed it to the Allied Powers. And its inclusion in gastronomy was big news. Today, chocolate soufflés, chocolate mousse and truffle cake seem like recipes our grandmothers have been making forever. With chocolate, anything is possible, as its properties and possibilities seem limitless. There are proverbs in Spanish that reflect the degree to which Aztec xocoalt has become ingrained in Spanish wisdom.

It pairs well will everything, includingfruit, especially acidic ones, spices and milk. When combined with savory dishes, chocolate is most often associated with game, and toast with chocolate spread and a bit of olive oil and salt is a magical combination. The percentage of cocoa is important, whether it's 60%, 70% or 80%, as the aromatic notes, level of bitterness and percentage of sugars all differ. In current-day cooking, chocolate with sweet recipes have evolved over the years in the same way and with the same speed as with savory dishes.  

There are many different options when it comes to pairing a recipe in which chocolate is the main ingredient. Moscatel plays up the singularity of white chocolate, while sweet Mistela highlights its bitterness. An aged, sweet Pedro Ximénez tastes wonderful alongside bonbons, and Brandy de Jerez pairs well with strong-flavored dark chocolate.

Passion for chocolate in Madrid

Chocolate has always had a large following in Madrid, and there are many stores where you can buy or eat it. Leading candy shops include SANTA, MOULIN CHOCOLAT, ORIOL BALAGUER, CACAO SAMPAKA and MAMÁ FRAMBOISE. There's also SAN GINÉS, where people in Madrid have been heading at dawn since 1890 for chocolate with churros, porras or picatostes, and CAFÉ GIJON, which is more than a century old, where chocolate with churros is served for breakfast or as a snack. Shops like VALOR, EMBASSY and MALLORCA are also wildly popular for their chocolate snacks, cakes and pastries.

ADDRESSES

SANTA. Serrano, 56. Tel.: 915 767 625 

MOULIN CHOCOLAT.Alcalá, 77, Tel.: 914 318 145 www.moulinchocolat.com

ORIOL BALAGUER, Ortega y Gasset, 44. Tel.: 914 016 463 www.oriolbalaguer.com

CACAO SAMPAKA. Orellana, 4 Tel.: 913 195 840 www.cacaosampaka.com

MAMÁ FRAMBOISE. Fernando VII, 23. Tel.: 913 914 364 www.mamaframboise.com

SAN GINÉS. San Ginés, 5. Tel.: 913 656 546 www.chocolateriasangines.com

VALOR. Conde de Peñalver, 43. Tel.: 914 011 640 www.chocolateriasvalor.es

CAFÉ GIJON. Paseo de Recoletos, 22. Tel.: 915 215 425 www.cafegijon.com

EMBASSY. Paseo de la Castellana 12. Tel.: 914 359 480 www.embassy.es

MALLORCA. Serrano, 6. Tel.: 915 771 859 www.pasteleria-mallorca.com

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11/12/2014