The other night, when everyone was hunkered down in their apartments waiting for the snowstorm to envelop us, I made hot chocolate. Cold weather and snow are among the best excuses to indulge in this gastronomic excess (I'm talking about the stuff made from scratch). It is sometimes acceptable in the instance of rainy weather, or thunderstorms. Otherwise, it's simply gluttony.
There are ground rules to good hot chocolate. First throw away your hot chocolate mix. Next, throw away your Hershey cocoa powder. The greatest hot chocolates are a blend of solid chocolate of very high cocoa percentage, whole milk, high-quality cocoa powder, superfine sugar, and water. You can also add peppermint extract, mint leaves, or in this case, chili powder. Too much cocoa powder and the drink will be gritty and bitter; too much solid chocolate and it will be soupy and unrefreshing. Forgo the water, and you'll make a drink too creamy and dairy-ish.
All that said, it couldn't be any easier one you nail the proportions. You'll need a saucepan and a blender (immersion or regular). Thanks to Jeffery Steingarten, who thanks the famous French pastry chef Pierre Hermé, I have knowledge of the perfect ratio of all ingredients. For an interesting history lesson on the history of chocolate (it was a drink and recreational drug for the Aztecs and Mayans long before the introduction of solid chocolate in Europe), check out his essay "Haute Chocolate" in the endlessly fascinating collection It Must Have Been Something I Ate .
Pierre Hermé's "Chocolate Chaud"
- 2 ¼ cups whole milk
- ¼ cup purified still water
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 ½ ounces dark bittersweet chocolate (at least 60 percent cocoa), carefully sliced with a serrated knife.
- ¼ cup good quality cocoa powder, loosely packed
Steingarten recommends Valrhona cocoa and Scharffen Berger dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa). I added 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, which in my opinion elevates the recipe to greatness.
In a saucepan, bring milk, water, and sugar to a boil over medium heat, stirring. Add the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, and chili powder if using.
Whisk until all is dissolved and mixture has thickened. Reduce heat to very low.
Transfer to a blender and blend for 30 seconds on high, or using an immersion blender for 5 minutes or so. The drink will foam considerably, which is the part of the drink that the Mayans and Aztecs prized.Chocolate, Drinks, Drinks, Milk