In For Peace of Mind, the Gardiner and Bennet families have a tradition of giving gifts at the end of each year. As Elizabeth explained to Georgiana,
“The gifts must show thankfulness for and give blessing to the receiver. Uncle says that is the most important part of the tradition.”(For Peace of Mind, Chapter 9)
I wanted Elizabeth to give a gift of homemade sweets to Lady Matlock. This sent me wandering around the internet in search of information about sweets in Regency England. Happily, I stumbled across the third edition of a cookbook published in London, England in 1827 which contained a recipe for chocolates! Below is that recipe.
Conserve of Chocolate—Conserve de Chocolat.
Boil-down two ounces of chocolate de santé or of vanille, in a quarter of a glass of water; have ready half a pound of sugar on perlé; mix it with the sugar, and work as the other: or all sorts of wet conserves, follow the directions given for cherries, currants, gooseberries, raspberries, oranges, lemons, &c. &c.
Of course, my research could not stop there. I had to try it. I needed to know how hard it might be for Lizzy to make her gift. So, I read the recipes for the other types of conserves as listed and gathered my tools. The results were edible, but not very good.
After a bit of thought, I decided perhaps I could find a similar recipe in my grandmother’s cookbook (printed in 1934)and use those instructions. This is the recipe I found.
1/2 cup cocoa
2/3 cup cold water
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place the cocoa and cold water in a sauce pan. Stir over low fire until chocolate is melted. Remove from fire and stir until smooth. Stir in sugar gradually and add milk. Then stir over fire until sugar is dissolved. Boil over medium flame until it reaches 226 degrees F. or until a soft ball will form when a teaspoonful of syrup is dropped in cold water. When test is obtained place pan in cold water to cool for a few minutes. Add butter and vanilla. Remove pan. Beat until it begins to thicken and lose its shine. Add nut meats. Pour at once onto a damp cake pan (greasing is unnecessary).
Marjorie M. Nelson
I gathered my tools again and began my second attempt. In this second attempt, I used 1/4 cup of cocoa, 1 cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of cold water, and a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. I followed Marjorie’s directions as written omitting the information about the milk, butter and nut meats; making sure not to stir while the mixture boiled; and pouring it not into a damp pan but into a pan lined with wax paper. The results were not only edible but declared good by my teenage son!
Next time, I think I might try adding dried fruit or nut meats, or perhaps I will pour the chocolate into some pretty moulds, or….
The Art of French Cookery by A.B. Beauvilliers, Restauranteur, Paris, Third Edition, printed for Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green, Paternoster-Row.
Friendship League’s Book of Tested Recipes (Swedish Tabernacle Church, Minneapolis, MN published by Independent Press.