Tag Archives: Medieval Recipes

Adding Chocolate into the Mix — by Cindy Lynn Speer

Adding Chocolate into the Mix

One of my challenges this summer was to write some recipes for a free giveaway book.  I actually wrote some short stories to go with it because in the end, grabbing a couple of things out of the letters that start each chapter of The Chocolatier’s Wife was easier. (It’ll be available soon…keep your eyes peeled.  It’s a fun little book…and, as I mentioned, free!) So, I wrote the short stories first.  I chose two of my favorite past moments from the book, and  wrote away.  The first was an adventure that may lead into a sequel to the book.  I always loved how William, when asked for a brass button for a protection ritual gives her pretty much every button he owns, and since what he wears is based off of 1800’s British Navy, there are a lot of buttons.

The second story is about how Tasmin found her little wind sprite family, and how they decided that they would stay right with her, thank you very much.

Then I worked on the spells.  The spells were easy, too.  I use actual flower/stone/herb lore in my books.  My favorite resources are George F. Kunz’s Curious Lore of Precious Stones, (You can read it, here:  http://archive.org/details/curiousloreofpre028009mbp) Maud Grieve’s A Modern Herbal  (which can be found online here: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/mgmh.html)  and Miss Carruther’s Flower Lore — which, actually, isn’t my favorite, but I’m showing it to you because it’s so darn pretty: http://archive.org/details/cu31924074094412

Why do I use actual lore instead of making it all up?  After all, Berengia, the Pandroth Empire, Aversin Shore…none of these places exist in our world.  Am I being lazy, not making it all up? No, not at all.  If you make up something – let’s say you invent a new flower.  Let’s call it Anilom.  It’s a new word, and your mind will want context.  Now, you have to describe the flower, you have to give it more page space that perhaps it needs for the story…you’ve made it important.  But if I say rose petals, you already know.  You mind fills in the image for me, and if I want to make it more important, I can.  One of the rules for good writing, I believe, is that you should be careful to give the items and people in your story “screen time” in perfect proportion to their importance to the story itself.  There was an author I liked to read who would spend pages and pages describing a ship, and I’d be all excited and ready to see this ship in action…and the ship would disappear.  In the end, all he wanted to do was describe the ship, it really had nothing to do with anything that would add to the atmosphere or plot of the book.  It was frustrating.

And then…I had to get to it…the chocolate recipes.  It was daunting. I like to make jokes at my own expense (at potlucks I tell people that I make awesome paper plates and cans of soda pop) but honestly, I can cook.   Sometimes I even like to cook.  Before I had a full time job again, I made awesome bread.  But at the end of the day food doesn’t mean enough to me to extend real effort.  Dinner’s over, then I have to do the dishes.  So making up a recipe was scary.  Did it have to make sense?  Did it have to be something people could cook?  What if people tested it and it made them sick?

Then I started to research period recipes, thinking I could find things that were really old as a base and use elements….and then I was reminded of something that I should have realized all along.  Old time recipes are nothing like ours.  I have friends who have redacted medieval recipes…I’ve stood and nodded wisely while they explained in pain-staking detail how they managed to finally get a sauce right. Let me grab an example of a period recipe…aha.  Here is Martha Washington’s sugar cookie recipe:

To Make Sugar Cakes:

Take 3 ale quarts of fine flowre, & put to it a pound of sugar, beaten & searced; 4 youlks of eggs, strayned thorugh a fine cloth with 12 or 13 spoonfulls of good thick cream; & 5 or 6 spoonfulls of rose water; A pound & a quaeter of butter, washt in rose water & broaken in cold, in bits. knead all these ingredients well together . after, let it ly A while, covered well, to rise. then roule them out & cut them with a glass, & put them on plates (a little buttered) in an oven gently heat. all these kinde of things are best when ye sugar & flower are dryed in an oven before you use ym.

And thus I realized…that William’s recipes for his confections would actually look much the same.  They didn’t have a set of standardized measures…no carefully marked out cups or a set of spoons that were made to be the same size no matter which one you picked up.  And William would be making notes so he’d know what he did, but he wouldn’t be exact.  His handful of sugar would be the same – he wasn’t worried about others making things  off his notes.

But I’m not sure if I would make any of my recipes…after all, I didn’t test them in my own kitchen.  I just made them up and tried to make them sound sensible.


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