Friday, May 4, 2012

Chocolate Comfort, Part 1: Perfect Hot Chocolate



This being finals week at my university, I’m inundated with nearly a hundred final papers and a hundred final exams, along with all the (not very creative) emergency emails about why papers are not able to be delivered on time.  In short: not the week for unique and elegant meals.  On the other hand, this is definitely the week for seeking refuge in sweets as a treat after slogging through another round of grading.  This is where chocolate comes to the rescue.

While we prefer our bar chocolates to be of the caliber of Scharffen Berger or Vosges—or at least Ghirardelli or Godiva—our chocolate chips for cooking rarely ventured far above the heights of Nestle.  Then we discovered Callebaut Belgian Dark Chocolate Callets (callets apparently being flatter, thinner disk versions of “chips”).  Initially we feared that we might not be able to go through the 3.5 lb bag that we purchased at Costco (where else do you find “finest Belgian Dark Chocolate” in massive pouches, at a steal?).  Now, Will wants to go back and get another bag so that we would always have reserve quantities of Callebaut callets around the condo.  You know—just in case…


It’s true what the bag advertises: these callets are “perfect for baking, cooking and snacking.”  More than once, I’ve spotted the bag on the kitchen island, apparently having been pulled out by Will just for random munching purposes.  I try to exercise more restraint and have attempted to use the callets more for cooking, in something.  Luckily, there are a myriad wonderful ways of using Callebaut, and—during this hectic finals week—I’d like to share with you one of the simplest methods.  In future posts, I’ll reveal more simple recipes and techniques for using these callets, but for now, one of our favorite chilly weather treats and comfort drink extraordinaire:

Perfect Hot Chocolate:

1/4 c Dark chocolate callets or chips (preferably Callebaut)
1/4 c half and half or whipping cream
3/4 c milk (2% or whole)
cinnamon and/or red (cayenne) pepper (optional)
(This recipe serves one.  Just multiply for more servings.)


1) Start with a small saucepan and melt ¼ cup of chocolate callets over medium-low to medium heat.  Whisk, and don’t let it burn! 



2) When the callets are almost completely melted pour about ¼ cup of cream or half and half and whisk (with a flat whisk to get to the edges of your pan) into a smooth and creamy consistency.  The mixture should resemble a runny ganache (pictured below). 


3) Let the mixture be completely mixed before you pour in ¾ cup milk (at least 2% fat, no less), whisking all the while. 



4) Once the chocolate mixture is fully incorporated with milk, raise the heat to medium-high and let heat up completely, whisking all the while and frothing up the mixture a bit.  No sugar is needed, but I like to sprinkle a dash of cinnamon and a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper.


Yes, of course, you can top with whipped cream, but that’s perhaps even a bit of an overkill.  The hot chocolate is very rich (like you’d get at a cafe where you pay $5 a cup).  If you like your hot chocolate less rich, just use fewer chocolate callets.

Now back to grading.

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