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Jasmine Chocolate

and Cosimo III (de'Medici)

 

 

 

Chocolate: Political Tool of Italy's Medicis

 

By Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

 

March 29, 2006 - The Medicis, the family that dominated the Italian Renaissance, used chocolate as a powerful political tool to impose the Florentine taste in European courts, according to an exhibition that traces the history of chocolate from its arrival to Europe in the 16th century.

 

The exhibition, at the Civic Museum of Monsummano Terme, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Florence, brought to light a 17th century letter which contained the secret jasmine chocolate recipe of Grand Duke Cosimo III, hidden in a footnote.

 

Double chinned, bovine eyed, chocoholic Cosimo III (1642 - 1723), was determined to put to an end to Spain's supremacy in making chocolate.

 

Indeed, the Spaniards managed to turn the Maya and Aztec's spiced cocoa drink into a delicate, sweet drink aromatized with vanilla, musk, and amber.

 

To compete with Spain, the Grand Duke told his court scientists to develop new recipes in his food laboratories.

 

It was there that his personal doctor and court scientist Francesco Redi created the jasmine chocolate.

 

The recipe remained a state secret until the Medici dynasty ended with the death from obesity of Cosimo's son Giangastone.

 

"Cosimo turned his love for chocolate into a political tool. As Redi wrote in his letter, he counterposed to the Spanish perfection Florence's exquisite gentleness," Ida Fontana, director of Florence's National Library and one of the exhibition curators, said.

 

Offered only to very important guests, the jasmine chocolate soon became the most sought-after drink at the European courts.

 

At that time, chocolate was almost boiling and sipped very slowly from small cups called "chicchere." Not one, but two napkins had to be used in the drinking ritual.

 

Indeed, the jasmine chocolate required much attention. It took the Grand Duke 12 days to make it.

 

"It wasn't an infusion, neither it was water flavored with jasmine. Making jasmine chocolate wasn't a simple preparation of food, it was an operation of botanical-gastronomical engineering," Danielo Vestri, a chocolate maker who has reproduced the Medici recipe, told Discovery News.

 

Layers of fresh jasmine flowers and cocoa powder were put one over the other. The process had to be repeated every 24 hours for 12 days.

In this way, the jasmine petals provided the cocoa dough with a flavor never tasted before.

 

"It is simply delicious. And it is easy to digest: the cocoa dough was melted in water, not in milk. The Medici did not only influence the arts, but also chocolate. People at my shop go crazy for jasmine chocolate," Vestri said.

 

The recipe:

10 librae of roasted cocoa, cleaned and coarsely minced (1 libra = 12 oz.)
fresh jasmine petals
8 librae white sugar
3 ounces vanilla flowers
6 ounces cinnamon
2 scruples (7.76 grams) ambergris

 

Put layers of cocoa and jasmine flowers in a box, one layer over the other. Let it rest for 24 hours, then change the jasmine flowers with fresh ones. Repeat 12 times. Add the other ingredients and combine them on a warmed marble surface until the chocolate dough forms.

 

 

Thanks to Steve Muhlberger for bringing this to our attention

 

 

 

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