Fran Wilde

Book Bites with Kate Heartfield and Alice Payne Rides

Book Bites is Cooking the Books‘ more easygoing cousin. Authors talk about their book and share a recipe, all in one tasty bite.

Book Bites is back for 2019! We’re looking forward to bringing you more tasty reads this year, starting with author Kate Heartfield! Take it away, Kate!


My “Alice Payne” time-travel novellas are set largely in the late 18th century, in England. I open the second book, Alice Payne Rides, with a dinner party in 1789, at which are served caraway comfits, so I made some. I documented that on Twitter.

Another passion of the 18th century was drinking chocolate; in the first book, Alice Payne Arrives, Alice and her lover Jane make some in a quiet moment. The drinking chocolate of that era was made by shaving a brick of chocolate into water, milk or brandy, and adding thickeners, then using a special chocolate mill to make it frothy. It was served out of special chocolate pots and cups.

In 1747, Hannah Glasse published The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. It contains a recipe for making a brick of chocolate, which includes many flavourings: anise, long pepper, cinnamon, almonds, pistachios, achiote, musk, ambergris, nutmeg, rosewater.

I made a batch of drinking chocolate using some of these spices—not as an attempt at an authentic recreation, but just to get a sense of how these flavours might have worked together.

There’s nothing sacred about my version, so mix it up at will. I happened to have smoked black pepper, so I used that plus cayenne in place of Hannah Glasse’s long pepper, which isn’t typically found in Canadian supermarkets. Neither is achiote, so the first four spices in my recipe are meant to substitute for that. I decided to ignore the musk and ambergris, thank you very much.

This has got a kick, and it’s rich. A little goes a long way. I used melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder, for a closer approximation to the thick, gritty drinking chocolate of the 18th century (albeit without the froth).


Spicy Drinking Chocolate (makes 3 or 4 cups)

1/4 tsp turmeric

Pinch of oregano

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp anise seeds

1/4 tsp smoked black pepper

Pinch of cayenne

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

3/4 cup water

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tsp rosewater

1/4 tsp almond extract

1/4 cup or more of milk or cream

Sugar to taste

Cheesecloth

Put all the spices with the water into a small saucepan and simmer for three minutes. Strain the water through a cheesecloth into a bowl. Pour the water back into the saucepan with the chocolate chips, the rosewater and the almond extract. Simmer long enough to melt the chocolate. Whisk in the milk or cream, and add sugar if you like.


Kate Heartfield is the author of the historical fantasy novel Armed in Her Fashion (ChiZine Publications 2018) and the time-travel novella Alice Payne Arrives, published in November 2018 from Tor.com Publishing. The second book, Alice Payne Rides, is coming on March 5, 2019, and is available for pre-order now. Choice of Games released her interactive novel, The Road to Canterbury, in 2018. A former newspaper journalist, Kate is now a freelance editor, teacher and writer. She lives in Canada. You can find Kate on Twitter as @kateheartfield.