French desserts are often synonymous with chocolate. In fact, when you think of luxuriousness andsheer decadence of French desserts, chocolate feels like a fitting companion. But, when did thisfascination with this cocoa treat first begin?
Well, it turns out that chocolate has a long and rich history in France:
A Royal Welcome to France
Believe it or not, chocolate wasn’t actually “invented” in France. Rather, it was brought over by theSpaniards. In particular, this cocoa elixir was introduced to the nation via Anne of Austria, the daughterof Philip III of Spain. When she married Louis XIII of France, she brought her chocolate along with her.She wasn’t the only Spaniard to share chocolate treats with France, however. Another Spanish princess,Marie Thérèse, was married to Louis XIV, further championing the use of chocolate in the French court.However, chocolate wasn’t actually consumed in the way that it is today…
Liquid Chocolate Gold
People had some rather interesting ideas about chocolate in the beginning. To begin with, it wasn’tactually treated as a dessert or a treat. Instead, it was considered to be a recreational drug. This isbecause it was believed to have a calming effect. Many people reached for it as an aphrodisiac as well.When chocolate was first introduced to France, though, it was consumed in liquid form. The chocolatewas frothed into water or milk-the precursor of modern day hot chocolate. Some cooks would addspices or vanilla for more complex flavours.Another thing of note was the fact that chocolate was strictly for nobility. It wasn’t until the 19th centurythat the chocolate was made available to masses. By then, chocolate production had become easier andother companies were able to supply it to the general population.
Still, most considered chocolate to be medicinal. Therefore, you would typically find chocolate inpharmacies instead of shops or cafes! As it grew in popularity, though, it quickly progressed to aningredient in desserts.
Chocolate in French Desserts
The popularity of chocolate meant that cooks found a variety of ways to infuse this luxurious ingredientwith other components. Thus, classic desserts such as éclairs, poire belle Hélène, chocolate mousse,orangettes, profiteroles, souffles, macarons, pain au chocolat, and more!In fact, it is estimated that the average French citizen consumes around 8 kilograms of chocolate eachyear in some form or another! And, it appears that this number has been rising over the years. Needlessto say, chocolate has a very important place and function in French cuisine.
French Chocolate in the Modern Age
Chocolate continues to be a mainstay in French desserts. These days, though, standalone chocolate barshave become more luxurious than ever before. In fact, the Bayonne region is considered to be thechocolate capital of the country due to the sheer number of chocolate creators and houses in the area.
Chocolate bars don’t just consist of cocoa and sugar anymore, either. Rather, you will find the finestchocolates infused with the most fragrant of teas. This includes bold and robust black tea,bergamote, infused Earl Grey tea, and even the gently scented Jasmine tea. This helps to elevate theFrench chocolate from just a treat that you simply nibble on. Instead, such chocolates are meant to besavoured and considered a delicacy.
Still, old habits die hard. No matter where you go in France, you will still find café owners that will frothbars of chocolate and milk for you to enjoy thick cups of hot chocolate. And, some of the top pastriescontinue to be éclairs, chocolat au pain, and chocolate mousse!It is clear that chocolate plays a significant role not just in French cuisine but in the culture as well.
Although chocolate may have not originated in France, it has certainly managed to take hold in thecountry and its people. Needless to say, it doesn’t appear that things will be changing any time soon.