Choctoberfest Halloween Special! Trick-or-Treating


Welcome to the last Choctoberfest post of the year! In the spirit of Halloween I thought that we could finish up by looking at the origins of trick-or-treating. Although I’m aware that this doesn’t directly correlate with the realm of chocolate, I believe that enough kids get to chow down on it as part of their Halloween haul, so that’s good enough for me.

The trick-or-treat element of Halloween was born out of All Souls’ Day. This holiday was established by the Catholic church in the 10th century in order to honour and recognize all of the Christian dead.

Observed on November 2, All Souls’ Day was celebrated with Masses and festivities. The living prayed on behalf of Christians who were in purgatory, the state in the afterlife where souls are purified before proceeding to heaven. Through prayer and good works, living Christians could assist their departed friends and family move on into heaven.

All Souls’ Day – lighting candles for the dead

All Souls’ Day is still celebrated today, particularly in Mexico,  where All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are collectively observed as “Los Dias de los Muertos” – The Days of the Dead.

So how does our little history lesson relate to trick-or-treating?

In medieval times, one popular All Souls’ Day practice was to make ‘soul cakes’ which were simple bread desserts with a currant topping. In a custom called ‘souling’, children would go door-to-door begging for the cakes, much like modern trick-or-treaters. For every cake a child collected, he or she would say a prayer for the dead relatives of the person who gave the cake. These prayers would help the relatives find their way out of purgatory and into heaven.I’m unsure of how the trick element came into this practice. Perhaps if a person didn’t hand over a cake they simply had to live with the knowledge that they were sentencing their loved ones to more time in purgatory? Harsh.

The children even had a soul cake song along the lines of the modern “Trick-or-treat, trick-or-treat, give me something good to eat.” One version of the song went:

“A soul cake! A soul cake! Have mercy on all Christian souls, for a soul cake!”

There is also some evidence of trick-or-treat type activities in Celtic tradition. On November 1st they would celebrate Sahmain, which translates to ‘Summers’s End’. Celts would dress up in ghoulish outfits and parade out of town in order to lead wandering spirits away. Additionally, Celtic children would walk door to door to collect firewood for a giant communal bonfire. Once the fire was burning, the revelers would extinguish all the other fires in the village. They would then relight every fire with a flame taken from the bonfire, as a symbol of the people’s connection to one another. This spirit of community is somewhat of a contrast to the children at my door this evening who were yelling for more chocolates to be put into their Halloween bags.

The main reason for celebrating Samhain was to honour the Celtic Gods, and there’s evidence that the Celts would dress as these deities as part of the festival. Like with All Souls’ Day, people would also go door to door to collect food to offer to their Gods. There may have also been animal and human sacrifices, however, the evidence that suggests this is not conclusive.

The Celts also  believed in fairies and other mischievous creatures, and the notion of Halloween trickery may have come from their reported activities during Samhain. However, another theory is that much like modern New Years Eve, people let go of their inhibitions, drank heavily and got into trouble during Samhain. As such, it’s possible that the trickery tradition may simply come from this spirit of revelry.

Like many religious festivities, these early trick-or-treating traditions morphed into a commercialized entity that is designed to make money. Alas, at least we know that this frenzy for candy did come from some rather fascinating historical practice.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed Choctoberfest as much as I have! And for my North American friends who haven’t started celebrating yet – Happy Halloween!

Choctoberfest: The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Accident


Unlike so very many of the origin stories here at Delicious History, the creation of the Chocolate Chip Cookie isn’t disputed.

I’ll give you a moment to get over the shock.

Despite its lack of ambiguity, the invention of this tasty treat is quite an interesting little tale. So go ahead and grab a cookie and a glass of milk, and read on.

The creation of the Chocolate Chip Cookie is attributed to Ruth Wakefield, who invented it at her Toll House in Massachusetts. This was a very popular restaurant that featured home cooking during the 1930s. The restaurant’s popularity was not only due to the style of meals, but also Wakefield’s policy of providing diners with extra helpings to take home, as well as serving homemade cookies for dessert.

Ruth Wakefield: Hero

One of Ruth’s favorite recipes was Chocolate Butter Drop Do cookies, which I think sounds like some kind of dance. The recipe called for the use of baker’s chocolate, and one day Ruth found herself without the needed ingredient. She substituted it for a semi-sweet chocolate bar cut roughly into small pieces. However, unlike the baker’s chocolate, the chopped up pieces didn’t melt. They only softened.  This may have been an accident, but it certainly was a profitable one. The cookies were an absolute hit and customers began to ask for the recipe.

Conveniently enough, the chocolate bar used for the cookies had been a gift from Andrew Nestle. I’m sure you recognize the name. As the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe gained in popularity, sales of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate bars also increased. As a consequence, Andrew Nestle and Ruth Wakefield struck a deal. Nestle would print the Toll House Cookie recipe on its packaging, and Wakefield would have a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate. A fair deal? Perhaps not, but I like the sound of a lifetime supply of chocolate and being immortalized as the inventor of the Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Wakefield released a cookbook in 1936 titled Toll House Tried and True Recipes, which featured the original chocolate chip cookie recipe under the name ‘Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies’.  The recipe can be found RIGHT HERE:

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Method

  • Sift flour together with salt and set aside.
  • Cream together butter and sugars. Add the eggs mixing until combined. Dissolve baking soda in hot water and add alternately with flour mixture.
  • Add vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for 36 to 48 hours. (WHAT!? I don’t want to wait that long for my cookies!)
  • Preheat oven to 190°C.
  • Scoop out rounded tablespoonfuls refrigerated dough and roll between hands into a ball. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet and press ball down to flatten.
  • Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Cool cookies on the pan for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Choctoberfest: How Lindt Improved Chocolate Production…


…by being freakin’ delicious. End of story. Blog post completed. You can get back to your online shopping now.

That explanation isn’t adequate enough for you? Goodness, you’re all so demanding.

Sure, Lindt chocolate tastes amazing, and being one of the most successful chocolate companies in the world is a feat onto itself. Historically, however, Lindt gave a far greater gift to the world of chocolate. One of their inventions changed the way that chocolate was processed, which greatly improved its consistency, texture and taste. Before delving too deeply into this process, let’s take a quick peak at the history of Lindt…

It all began in a small pastry shop in Zurich in 1845. Confectioner David Sprüngli-Schwarz, and his 29 year old son Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann dared to try something different – to make chocolate in the new fashion that was coming out of Italy – in solid block form. This was significant, because up until that point in time, people consumed chocolate almost exclusively as a drink.

The Lindt Chocolate Cafe – The Happiest Place on Earth

With the retirement of Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann in 1892, the business was divided between his two sons. The younger, David Robert, received two confectionery stores under the name  Confiserie Sprüngli. The elder brother, Johann Rudolf, received the chocolate factory. In 1899, Johann acquired the chocolate factory of Rodolphe Lindt in Bern, and the company changed its name to United Bern and Zurich Lindt & Sprungli Chocolate Factory Ltd. This name should be becoming somewhat familiar now.

So why was Rodolphe Lindt’s factory so attractive to Johann? To answer that we’ll have to go back it up a bit.

Rodolphe Lindt was only 24 years old when he became a master chocolate  confectioner. In 1879 he purchased two fire-damaged factories and a few outdated machines. His intention? To manufacture a chocolate which would stand out amongst other products on the market. At that time, chocolate was a brittle, rough-surfaced and somewhat bitter substance that were laboriously pressed into moulds by hand.

Rodolph’s brother August was a pharmacist and had hypothesised that the moisture in chocolate paste, which crystallised with the addition of sugar, should be extracted during processing. August also suggested adding cocoa butter at the same time in order smooth out the conventional paste’s texture. Science + Chocolate = Sexy.

Eventually, the brothers developed a new kind of chocolate that was far superior to its predecessors. It had a dark and velvety matte gleam, an  enticing flavour, it moulded easily and melted on the tongue. They named it ‘chocolate fondant’, which translates to ‘melting chocolate’.

There are two conflicting tales regarding the development of the fondant.

Rudolphe Lindt – A bit of a Historical Hottie, and not just for his magical chocolate-making hands.

The first is that the brothers intentionally used their machines to stir the chocolate, uninterrupted, for three days and three nights.

The second is that they forgot to turn off their churning devices over the weekend. Luckily the result was delicious and revolutionary, as opposed to an unmitigated disaster. Regardless, Lindt’s discovery made a decisive contribution to both Swiss and Lindt chocolate’s international reputations.

The brother’s development came to be known as conching – a process of churning and stirring chocolate paste for long hours, with the addition of cocoa butter while the paste is being warmed by internal friction. A modern rotary conche can process 3 to 10 tonnes of chocolate in less than 12 hours.

So, thank you Lindt for improving the world of chocolate for us all, as well as continuing to be delectable 200 years later.

One final question – what is everyone’s favourite Lindt product?

Chocolate at War!


I bet that caught everyone’s attention!

Today we’ll be continuing Choctoberfest with a look at the role of chocolate during wartime. Interestingly enough, I don’t mean chocolate on the Homefront. This is purely an insight into how chocolate played a role in the US military during wartime. Pretty cool, huh?

Strangely,  Hershey’s have produced more than just their signature Kisses and crazy delicious Cookies and Cream Bars in the past. In fact, they’ve been heavily involved in providing rations for soldiers since before WWII .

Hershey’s involvement with the production of military rations began when Army Quartermaster Captain Paul Logan met with William Murrie, President of Hershey’s Chocolate, in April 1937. This visit resulted in the experimental production of a ration bar which would meet the needs of troops during wartime.

Unfortunately, ordinary chocolate bars melt far too easily in the summer heat, and therefore wouldn’t be viable for a soldier to carry around. Furthermore, normal bars were considered to be too tempting to be used as an emergency ration. As such,  Captain Logan outlined strict requirements for the bar, with was to be called The D Ration:

– Weigh four ounces (113.398 grams)
– Able to withstand high temperatures
– High in food energy value/calories
– Taste only marginally better than a boiled potato. Yum.

The D Ration Bar

Unfortunately, the Hershey chemists may have erred too much on the side of un-palatability. The D Ration was almost universally detested, and was often discarded or traded for more appetizing foods from unsuspecting civilians. Troops called the bar “Hitler’s Secret Weapon” due to its effect on soldier’s intestinal tracts. Also, because of how chewy it was, it couldn’t be eaten by soldiers with poor dentition. Even those with good dental work often found it necessary to shave slices off the bar with a knife in order to consume it.

The first of the Field Ration D bars were tested in the Philippines, Hawaii, Panama and at various Army posts throughout the US. The results of the test were satisfactory and Field Ration ‘D’ was approved for wartime use.

In 1939, Hershey was able to produce 100,000 units per day. By the end of 1945, production lines on three floors of the plant were producing approximately 24 million units per week. It has been estimated that between 1940 and 1945, over three billion ration units were produced and distributed to soldiers around the world.

Mmm, appetizing

In 1943, the US Army inquired about the possibility of obtaining a heat resistant bar that didn’t taste like absolute arse. After a short period of experimentation, Hershey’s Tropical Chocolate Bar was added to the list of wartime production items. This bar was destined to replace the D Ration by 1945. In July of 1971, Hershey’s Tropical Bar went to the moon with the Apollo 15 team. Reports state that it was only a slight improvement on the original D Ration bar.

In recognition of its outstanding war effort, Hershey’s was awarded the Army-Navy ‘E’ Production Award in 1942. The Corporation received a flag to fly above the chocolate plant and a lapel pin for every employee. The award was presented for exceeding all production expectations in the manufacturing of an Emergency Field Ration. This wartime honour recognized companies that consistently met high standards of quality and quantity in light of available resources. By the end of WWII, Hershey’s would receive a total of five Army-Navy ‘E’ awards.

Production of the D ration bar was discontinued at the end of WWII. However, Hershey’s Tropical Bar remained a standard ration for the United States Armed Forces. The Tropical Bar saw action in Korea and Vietnam before being declared obsolete.

The only slightly better tasting Tropical Bar

In the late 1980s, the US Army Lab created a new high-temperature chocolate bar that could withstand heat in excess of 60 °C (140 °F). It was dubbed The Congo Bar, and 144, 000 were shipped out to troops during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. While Army spokesmen said that the bar’s taste was good, troop reactions were mixed and the bar was not put into full production.

The Gulf War ended before all bars could be shipped, so the remainder was packaged in a desert camo wrapper and was dubbed the Desert Bar. It proved to be a brief novelty for consumers, but Hershey declined to make more after supplies ran out.

So it seems that chocolate has had quite a significant influence on 20th century militaristic history, even if it wasn’t particularly sweet. In closing, here are a few more interesting wartime facts about chocolate:

Advertisement for the Cadbury Ration Bar

– Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate came off the shelves in 1941 when the government banned manufacturers from using fresh milk. Instead, they released Ration Chocolate, made with dried skimmed milk powder.

– The Nazi’s began producing bombs that were disguised as chocolate bars. A more in-depth look at this amazing story can be found in one of my older posts – Death by Chocolate:  Hitler’s Camouflaged Bomb Plot

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Choctoberfest: The Origin of the Brownie


Happy Choctober, everybody! You’re right, it *is* way better than Ocsober.

For the entirety of this month I’ll be posting chocolate-centric articles for your reading pleasure.

Disclaimer – Delicious History will in no way be held responsible for any severe chocolate cravings resulting from the reading these posts.

Without further ado, let’s kickoff Choctoberfest with a much beloved favourite – The Chocolate Brownie. I highly recommend that you pause for a moment to get yourself a glass of milk to accompany this.

A original 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book

The name ‘brownie’ first appeared in the 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, where it describes molasses cakes baked individually in small tins. For those who are unfamiliar with molasses, it’s a kind of syrup that comes from the beating of cane sugar, grapes or sugar beets. Personally, I’ll stick to the chocolate variety of brownies. Thanks for asking though.

The origin of the  brownie is thought to be American and to derive its name not only from the colour, but also the elfin characters featured in the popular stories and verses by author Palmer Cox. The Eastman Kodak Brownie camera was also named after these elves.

Unfortunately, like so many food explorations here at Delicious History, the exact origin of the chocolate brownie is shrouded in myth. There are in fact several legends involving how they came to be:

– A chef mistakenly added melted chocolate to a batch of biscuits
– A cook was baking a cake but didn’t have enough flour
– A housewife in Bangor, Maine was making a chocolate cake but forgot to add baking powder. When her cake didn’t rise properly she cut and served the flat pieces.

The latter tale is the most widely circulated and is even cited in Betty Crocker’s Baking Classics and John Mariani’s The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink.

The earliest published recipe for chocolate brownies appeared in the Boston Daily Globe on 2 April 1905. It read:

BANGOR BROWNIES. Cream 1/2 cup butter, add 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 2 squares of chocolate (melted), 1/2 cup broken walnuts meats, 1/2 cup flour. Spread thin in buttered pans. Bake in moderate oven, and cut before cold.

Culinary historians have traced the first appearance of the brownie in a recipe book to the 1906 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, edited by Fannie Merritt Farmer. This recipe is an early, less rich version of the brownie we know, love and nom today.

The second recipe for brownies, appearing in 1907, was in Lowney’s Cook Book. The recipe added both an extra egg and additional chocolate to the Cooking-School recipe, thus creating a richer brownie. She named the recipe Bangor Brownies. This of course assists the origin theory of the housewife who forgot to add the baking soda.

The original 1907 recipe publication of Bangor Brownies

The use of the terms ‘Bangor Brownies’ or sometimes ‘Boston Brownies’ continued into the 1950s. It also took until the Roaring Twenties for brownies to become a national staple.

It goes without saying how popular chocolate brownies remain today. Any self-respecting dessert queen has a killer recipe in her repertoire, and you can find them in most cafes and bakeries. Suffice to say, they have come a long way since first being made with molasses…

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