Hot Chocolate, the most sacred of beverages, has been suffering from an identity crisis. Everywhere I look, the acceptable version of this beverage has become a watered down version of ifs ancestors. If you order hot chocolate in a restaurant, hotel, or coffee shop you are lucky if you can get a version that is milk and chocolate. At its best I tend to find a thin, milky, over steamed generic tasting cup with spray can (gasp) whipped cream melted over the top. At its worst I find people accepting hot water (no!) and a coco powder mix dissolved into it.
Where did we go wrong! Why are we ok with this? I demand change. Maybe I have watched the movie Chocolat too many times, but I want my mug of hot chocolate to be a spiritual experience, a remedy for cold days and fatigue. I want a mug of chocolate melted into whole milk with exotic spices and a bowl of freshly whipped cream served along side so I can spoon it in as I see fit.
And so I share with you this tale of what hot chocolate should be. My first real taste of the good stuff happened in Paris. On Ile St Louis there is a shop by the name La Charlotte de l’Isle. On the window of this shop are the words “Chocolat Chaud l’Ancienne” which translates to The Old Hot Chocolate. Here, I sat at a table and was served the real deal. Thick, rich, spiced hot chocolate. It was served in what looked like a copper Turkish coffee pot so it would stay warm as I poured it into my mug. There are not words to describe the transformative experience I had. After I drank this magical brew I felt like I could sing, dance, and walk the entire city of Paris in 1 hour. I was a one man musical. My dinning companion, Ben, who had the same magical elixir had the opposite effect. He fell asleep immediately after consuming!
So buyers beware, I cannot presume to tell you what the effects will be. But I can tell you this, a real mug of hot chocolate is hard to find but not hard to make. With a saucepan, good chocolate, and a little care you can make a magical elixir of your own.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see a few photos of that magical hot chocolate from Paris. Don’t mind the the old school photo filters!
Hot Chocolate For Two
2 ½ cups whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon coco powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 pinches of ground cayenne pepper
3 ounces of high quality dark chocolate (I like Valrhona)
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
In a medium saucepan on medium-low heat add milk, bay leaf, coco powder, ground cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Heat to a simmer. By heating up the milk slowly, you give the spices time to steep into the milk and create more flavor. While the milk is warming make the whipped cream: in a bowl add heavy cream and powdered sugar and whisk until it can hold soft peaks. Set aside. When the milk is simmering, add in chocolate and brown sugar. Whisk to incorporate. Serve immediately with a side of whipped cream.
*Be creative with you spices and find out what you like. Nutmeg, clove, ground chipotle, and almonds can all be nice additions.