Friday, December 20, 2013

Hot Chocolate, the Really Old Fashioned Way


We are fans of hot chocolate—especially when it’s snowing outside and it’s warm and cozy inside.  I’ve already written about the traditional hot chocolate made with real chocolate and real milk.  (Read that post here.)  But there’s an even more traditional way to make hot chocolate that doesn’t involve milk.  No, it doesn’t involve packets labeled Swiss Miss or Nestle either!

Possibly the richest hot chocolate we tasted was in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Thankfully it was a smaller portion than American hot chocolate and served in a demi-tasse cup.  Honestly, we cannot imagine drinking more of it since it was so thick and rick and, well, chocolate-y.  Our mistake was in ordering a chocolate cake along with it.  (Well, it was a shop that specialized in chocolate desserts!)  The combination was almost too much to handle, even for these two die-hard chocolate fiends.

We keep meaning to try out a place in Paris that is supposed to serve a similarly rich hot chocolate.  Guidebooks and fellow tourists all talked about Angelina’s, but somehow we haven’t made it there.  This summer when we were staying in Paris, we found ourselves half a block away from the fabulous chocolatier Jacques Genin, so we ended up going there for very exclusive and expensive (but oh so delicious) chocolates and surprisingly delectable fruit jellies (passion fruit and guava, I think, were amazing).

On one visit, we waited a long time to get a table to try out Jacques Genin’s hot chocolate and café crème as well.  They were good, but not as special as their chocolates were.  I think it’s because we don’t hand-make our own dark truffle with basil or milk chocolate with grapefruit.  We do, however, make darn good hot chocolates and coffees on our own.  In any case, given the slight (and overpriced) disappointment of the Jacques Genin hot chocolate pretty much next door to us in north Marais, we didn’t feel like standing in line to wait for a more expensive hot chocolate two metro rides away from us (near the Louvre).  

So we still haven’t made it over to Angelina's Tearoom, but I’m not sure we will try very hard either.  It looks great (here’s their page about the famed hot chocolate), but I think I can make it myself too.  I’ve gotten some hints from reading yelp reviews, and someone relayed the key information that Angelina’s makes their hot chocolate without milk.  At first I was astonished.  Without milk?  How can it be rich and creamy then?   I add not only milk but also either half and half or cream in my hot chocolate.  But then I tried making it with water instead—as suggested—and I could see that this method could work.  It’s definitely a different drink, and it is richer in the sense that the chocolate flavor is much more intense as it is not mellowed by the milk. 

If you want to try it, here is my recipe for 2 very very rich cups of hot chocolate:


1.  Slowly melt ½ cup chocolate callets (for easier melting) or chips in a small pan over medium heat.  Have on hand about cup of water.

Note: Try not to use overly sweet chips.  We use Belgian dark chocolate callets. 

Another Note: Yes, you can use a double-boiler so that you don't actually cook the chocolate directly over the stove-top.  I just choose to use no higher than medium heat to make sure it doesn't get a burnt taste.

2.  Once chocolate is almost all melted, slowly pour in about cup water and blend gently with a flat wire whisk to make a smooth and thick sauce.  Then add about half of the remaining water and again bring to a smooth sauce.  You’ll discover that the mixture initially gets thinner but will thicken again with another couple of minutes further cooking.  Then, if you wish, add the remaining water and repeat the above process.  The drink will get thicker (and get more pudding-like) the longer you have it on the heat, so do make sure that you are careful to remove from heat when you have reached the consistency you like.


Note: You should use no less than ½ cup water for ½ cup chips, but you can use up to 1 full cup water if you so desire.  By my experience, we like it best at about or ¾ cup water maximum for this drink.

3.  This is entirely optional, but I sprinkle in a tiny pinch of ground cayenne and a slightly larger pinch of ground cinnamon into the hot chocolate.  In a small pitcher, pour in about ½ cup whipping cream and microwave for about 30 seconds to warm.  Pour the hot chocolate into cups slightly larger than you think you'll need since you’ll want room to add cream.

Note: You may instead opt to whip some cream and serve on the side as Angelina’s does, but I find that I like having the warm cream to add in.  In either case, some sort of cream addition (warmed or whipped) is a must, in my view, to cut the richness of this drink.  I know, it’s odd to think about using cream to cut the richness of something…


Final Note: Will cannot decide which he likes better.  I think I like our traditional way with milk better as a drink, but this richer hot chocolate is something that becomes a dessert on its own.  You know, for those days when you want chocolate . . . but you want it hot.



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