When I was a kid growing up on the shore of Lake Ontario, we spent our winters wading through waist-deep snow, sliding down the treacherous hill by the old cheese factory and building snow people by the dozens. Winter was long and cold and white with gray edges.
But when we came in from outside to hang our wet woolly things up to dry, there was always hot chocolate on the stove (made with Nestle’s Quik). That was a given.
Let’s fast-forward to the present and make grown-up hot chocolate, shall we? Break out those Lindt, Ghirardelli, Godiva or Ritter’s chocolate bars we got for Christmas and chop them into little pieces. Bring on the whole milk, whipping cream and all the sprinkly bits.
Perhaps a wayward candy cane left over from the Christmas tree, a cinnamon stick or a few star anise will find their way into your cup. Maybe you’d like a sprinkle of colored sugar, ground nutmeg, cinnamon, chocolate shavings or sea salt. How about a drizzle of caramel atop that fluff of fresh whipped cream? And don’t forget the chocolate truffle that will sink to the bottom of the cup and lazily melt as you sip.
Dive into the liquor cabinet and let’s see what you’ve got there. A healthy dash of peppermint schnapps, Grand Marnier, Godiva liqueur or Kahlua may be in order. What do you say?
You shouldn’t skimp when making this divine elixir. Go big on the quality of the chocolate and accoutrements – and don’t you dare reach for that 2% milk.
Of course, I should advise that it’s best to enjoy this winter wonderland trio of treats after you’ve had a brisk jog or a traipse around in the woods on your snowshoes or cross country skis …
Hygge Hot Chocolate is the easiest H.C. version I know. If you use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the milk. And FYI, I like to use a chocolate bar that’s more on the bittersweet side – in case I’m invited over.
Perhaps you prefer dense, syrupy Italian Hot Chocolate, more dessert than drink. Serve it in small cups like you would espresso. As a matter of fact, you can substitute 1 cup of strong coffee (or 1/2 cup espresso and 1/2 cup water) for the 1 cup of water in the recipe. You can also add more water or milk if it’s too much chocolate for you to handle!
When preparing French Hot Chocolate, the rich concentrate can be made ahead and kept in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. It’s a delightful item to have on hand when you have the urge for a sweet sip or two. It also makes a lovely gift for a deserving friend. When you’re ready to imbibe, the syrup is warmed with milk. Remember, a little goes a long way.
Try them all and let me know your favorite.
Hygge Hot Chocolate
4 cups whole milk
10 ounces (50% or higher cacao) dark chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring milk to a simmer, but do not boil. Turn the heat to medium-low and add chocolate and butter. Gently whisk continuously until all ingredients are combined. Yield: 4 (1-cup) servings
Italian Hot Chocolate
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup water, divided
1 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium saucepan, stir together cocoa, sugar and cornstarch. Place over low heat and stir in 1/2 cup water. When this begins to simmer, add another 1/2 cup water and 1 cup milk. Bring heat up to medium-low. Cook and stir constantly until mixture is thickened and coats a spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Yield: 4 (1/2-cup) servings
French Sipping Chocolate Concentrate
1 cup heavy or light cream
8 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
Bring cream to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and whisk in chocolate. Strain through a fine sieve, using a spatula to push it through. Yield: concentrate for 6 (1/2-cup) servings of hot chocolate
For each serving, combine 1/4 cup concentrate with 1/4 cup milk. Heat over low heat in a saucepan. Add 1/8 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon liquor per serving.