Note: This article is the conclusion to a previous post, A Lola’s Hot Chocolate.
“Shall I begin now?” Toby’s mom greeted us with a smile, when we arrived at her home. It was just a little after one in the afternoon; I was early, I knew, but I couldn’t contain my excitement. Finally, I was going to see how tsokolate transformed from an insipid liquid to a cup of thick ambrosia.
Mrs. G reached for a plastic container that held four of those large chocolate balls. She held the container out to me. I took a whiff ”“ again that aroma of coffee fields and cocoa beans. She took two balls and dropped them into a small pot. As she measured out three cups’ worth of water, she said, “It’s usually one cup of water per ball, but we’ll add more since these are quite large.”
Setting her pot onto the burner, she turned the heat up to medium-high. I was expecting her to immediately begin stirring, but instead she turned to me. “I usually don’t stir until the water begins to boil,” she explained. “Let the tableas soften.” My goodness, I usually hacked at the tableas as soon as they were in the water. To heck with waiting for the water to boil.
As the water heated up, the tableas broke apart, staining the liquid with clouds of brown. When bubbles started to peep shyly from under the surface, Mrs. G took her batidor (wooden beater ”“ see photo here) and quickly began stirring the mixture. At this point, the tableas had all but dissolved. With more stirring, the bubbles became larger and more frenzied. When I tried my hand with the batidor, I did my best to keep stirring in one small yet quick circular motion. This was no time for lazy circles in the pan.
I could feel the tsokolate thickening under the pressure of the batidor, due to both the stirring and the reducing of the liquid. To stop stirring now would only mean a scorched pot and wasted tsokolate. “The flame stays the same,” Mrs. G told me, “and you stir until the tsokolate is the thickness you want.”
About 15 minutes since we started cooking, the liquid in the pot was velvety, thick and glimmering. It was hard to believe that I had witnessed the transformation of water and tablea into this vivifying, vermilion liquid; still pourable, but it had crossed the line from vapid to viscous. “So you never made it this far?” Toby asked me. I shook my head. The longest I’d ever cooked tsokolate was 10 minutes, give or take.
As I sipped the tsokolate, it tasted of many things: earth, charred wood, but most of all, the soul of chocolate and sugar. Bitter from the cacao bean and sweetness from the sugar, tsokolate is a marriage of the field and earth. Add sugar and stir.