A little bit of cold has crept back into march, just in time to savor a little more hot chocolate before the winter has left us for good. You don't really need a recipe to make hot chocolate from scratch, just warm some milk (even soy or almond milk) add some chopped chocolate or cocoa, whisk well, sweeten if needed and sip away. Your hot chocolate can be milky, bitter, sweet, thick and rich or how ever you like it. This version Is particularly rich and decadent (notice the tiny cup it is serve up in).
Many years ago during a brief stint work pastry at Gramercy Tavern in NYC, I worked with a talented woman from Mexico. On a cold Sunday morning she warmed some milk with cinnamon, let it steep and stirred in a little milk chocolate. The infusion of cinnamon into the chocolate, a classic Mexican pairing was new to me, and a great revelation in what hot chocolate could be. The wave of rich hot chocolate quickly swept NYC, including two of the greats that I regularly sought out: City Bakery with it's hot chocolate festival and housemade marshmallows and Jacques Torres chocolate shop in NYC.
Over the years I have refined my favorite recipe to include dark chocolate, some cream if i have it, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and an important pinch of salt. This recipe made it on to the Menu I created for the Thaine Family Café, for Yale Dining Services and the Yale Sustainable Food Project in 2008. We used organic chocolate and milk. Much of that menu has changed in the preceding years since I moved on to other projects, but the hot chocolate has endured as a favorite drink.
Spiced Hot Chocolate
3 cups Milk
1 cup Cream
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
4 whole cloves
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate - finely chopped
ancho chili pepper (ground or whole dried peppers)
- Put cream and milk into a pot with all the spices and salt. Simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the spices steep for 20-30 minutes while you chop your chocolate.
- Remove the spices from the milk. bring the milk back to a simmer and add the chocolate. whisk until well combined. Taste and adjust sweetness if desired. Serve in a small espresso sized cup as is, or top with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.
- If you want to spice it up even more, add a little chili pepper. You can use any kind of ground chili you have, ancho peppers add a nice earthy mild spiciness. If you find dried whole ancho chilies in the latino section of your grocery store, soak them in hot water until they are soft. Remove seeds, and puree in a food processor or blender until smooth, add a little water if needed to blend. Start by adding a small spoonful to your hot chocolate, whisk well and adjust spiciness as desired.
Note: you can use any combination of milk and cream in this recipe, 2% milk and no cream is fine, Soy, Rice or Almond milk are also fine substitutions. Try experimenting with other spices too such as vanilla or black pepper.