Every individual has at least one fantasy in life which surfaces like a living vision every time one chooses to close the eyes to ruminate. Do you know what I see every time I visualize myself about 10 years down the line? I see a huge library with wooden flooring, shelves stacked with books, a wooden staircase that carries us to an upper balcony with even more books, a lovely crackling fireplace, a hearthrug in front, a large cushy armchair with a footrest and me sitting there with a most interesting book in one hand and a cup of steaming hot chocolate in the other... My heaven looks like that. Books to keep me happy and hot chocolate to keep me warm. I love it. But over the years as I worked towards making this imaginary vision into a reality of tomorrow, I realized that unlike books, not all recipes of hot chocolate worked for me. I like only select variations when it comes to my cuppa of liquid lust and, therefore, have experimented with various hot chocolate recipes from all around the globe. At the end of it all, I have realized that a cup of thick, hot chocolate is what my tongue loves and it is my mood which decides whether I want a very sweet American hot chocolate for the night or the less sweet Italian version called
. I have given a few delectable yet simple hot chocolate concoctions below. Take your pick as per your taste. And yes, when it comes to hot chocolate, I really do not care about things like
. Some things are too divine to be attached with such earthly complications.
Basic Hot Chocolate
Now, to warm up 4 victims of cold weather, you will need,
- Bitter-sweet chocolate, 6 oz. (grated)
- Milk, 3¼ cups
- Heavy cream, ¾ cup
- Vanilla, 1½ tsp.
- Salt, a pinch
Take a thick-bottomed saucepan and in it add the milk, cream, vanilla and the salt, very well. Now place the saucepan on medium heat until a boil appears. After 2 - 3 minutes of boiling, turn off the heat. Now take about two-third cup of this milk and pour it slowly over the grated chocolate and whip the mixture well, until you get lump-less molten chocolate. Now pour the molten chocolate into the rest of the milk mixture in the saucepan, turn on the heat and allow a steady simmer to set in for like two minutes. Add some crème de menthe if you want. After that, take it off the stove and use a hand blender to whisk the chocolate so that you introduce air bubbles into it. This aeration will make it frothy and of course ready to sip luxuriously once poured into individual cups. You may top it with marshmallows if you like!
Instead of the crème de menthe, one can also get a very oriental taste by simply adding 1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice, made from bajiao
or star anise, huajiao
or common Sichuan pepper, crunched fennel seeds, cloves and cinnamon. You'll be packing your hot chocolate with sour, sweet, bitter, pungent and salty at one go!
Aztec Chili Hot Chocolate
Armande Voizin (Judi Dench): Your cinnamon looks rancid.
Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche): Well, it's not cinnamon, it's a special kind of chili pepper.
Armande Voizin: Chili pepper in hot chocolate? Psh.
Vianne Rocher: Mm-hm. It'll give you a lift.
Remember this tête-à-tête between the two women in the movie Chocolat
? Well, Rocher played by Binoche, was absolutely right about the chili pepper. One of the first races to identify the goodness of chocolat
, the Aztecs added a spicy twist to it by adding chili peppers to give it that hot and flaming desirability, perfect for cold wintry nights. It does wonders for people who are suffering from colds, as well. You can make it with,
- Bitter-sweet chocolate, 8 oz. (grated)
- Whole milk, 7 cups
- Honey, 2 tbsp.
- Hazelnuts, 1 tbsp. (ground)
- Cinnamon sticks, 2
- Red chili pepper or ancho chili pepper, 1
- Vanilla bean, 1 (split lengthwise)
- Whipped cream, for garnishing
Half the chili pepper and de-seed it. Now in a cooking pan, pour the milk and throw in the halved chili pepper. Let it boil until the milk has reduced by at least 2 cups. Next add the cinnamon stick and the split vanilla bean and set the heat to medium for 5 minutes. Now turn the stove knob to low and add the grated chocolate and the honey. Keep stirring until all the chocolate has melted, leaving you with a thick, smooth mixture. Remove from heat and discard the chili pepper, the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Finally, pour it into individual mugs, topping it with some whipped cream and sprinkling some ground ancho chili and hazel nut powder over the cream. Stick a whole cinnamon stick at one side of every cup like you place a spoon. You can make this for a date by reducing the measurements a little bit.
Belgian Hot Chocolate
Straight from the heart of Brussels, warm up a group of six with this miracle potion! You must have around,
- Bitter-sweet chocolate, 8 oz. (grated)
- Milk chocolate, 4 oz. (grated)
- Half and half, 1 quart
- Cinnamon, ½ tsp. (ground)
- Salt, a pinch
Heat about ⅓ of the half and half, and add the grated chocolate to it. Stir continuously with a wooden spatula until the entire chocolate has melted, leaving you with a smooth liquid and then gently add the remaining half and half to this. Allow this concoction to cook until a very mild simmer appears and once it does, throw in the cinnamon. You may add some Chartreuse or cognac if you want at this juncture. Remove it from heat and then use a hand blender to whisk it for a bit. Serve hot with some whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top!
Champurrado or Mexican Hot Chocolate
A perfect brunch drink, this Mexican hot chocolate variation is served with fried, dough pastry snacks called churros.
This recipe won't take more than 10 minutes to make. So, you must have,
- Milk, 2¼ cups
- Water, 1½ cups
- Mexican chocolate, 1 disk (cut into smaller bits)
- Piloncillo or jaggery, 3 tbsp.
- Masa Harina or hominy flour, ½ cup (diluted with ¼ cup of heated water)
- Anise seed, ¼ tsp. (ground)
In a mixer, blend the masa harina
and water to get a smooth liquid and pour this into a small cooking pan. Pour the milk into this and then throw in the chocolate bits and the chopped Piloncillo. Also add the crushed anise seed and then allow a steady simmer to set in. You may add a stick of cinnamon and a split vanilla bean if you wish. As the simmer sets in, you have to continuously agitate the liquid with a wooden molinillo
, or a Mexican hand whisk, by holding its handle in between your palms and rotating it by rubbing the palms against each other. This will cause the broad disk at the end of the molinillo
which is immersed in the liquid, to make the milk solution to froth. When you see that the entire chocolate has completely liquefied and blended in well with the milk, remove this smooth drink from the heat, run it through a sieve and then serve hot!
Cioccolata Calda or Italian Hot Chocolate
Every time I make this, I remember the hot cocoa served in the movie Chocolat
, simply due to Cioccolata Calda
's dense, pudding-like consistency! Like Luc Clairmont (Aurèlien Parent Koenig) in Chocolat
, it makes people confess, "Each time I tell myself it's the last time, but then I get a whiff of her hot chocolate...
" and the rest remains unsaid. You can make it too, with,
- Bitter-sweet chocolate, 3.5 oz. (cut into ¼" bits, the bars must contain 72% cacao)
- Whole milk, 1½ cups
- Sugar, 2 tbsp.
- Cornstarch, 2 tsp.
Place a thick-bottomed cooking pan on low heat and after 10 - 15 seconds add the chocolate bits and about 2 tablespoons of the milk to it. (In case you do not have bitter chocolate, use semisweet chocolate. Just do not use any sugar in that case.) Take a wooden spatula and stir until all the chocolate has melted, without a single lump left. Now, pour in the whole milk gradually and blend the two liquids together thoroughly. Next, add the sugar and the cornstarch and stir until all you are left with is a uniform liquid. Keep cooking on low heat for 10 minutes until you have a thick pudding-like solution. You may stir in 2 tablespoons of decadent Godiva chocolate liqueur or Grand Mariner to this for that extra kick. Scoop out dollops of this into individual mugs and then top off with whipped cream and mizzle some cayenne pepper over it if you like it! This is the perfect dessert recipe for a cozy, romantic dinner and will definitely leave the two of you entwined in each others arms like the characters of Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) and Roux (Johnny Depp)... Try it as this is liquid pleasure!
Hot Chocolate with Marshmallow Whipped Cream
This homemade hot chocolate will be liked by those, who, like me, do not like flimsy preparations of liquid chocolate. Gather,
- Dark chocolate bars, 2 (grated, the bars must contain 70% cacao)
- Milk, 4 cups
- Honey, ⅓ cup
- Cornstarch, 2 tsp.
- Vanilla extract, 1½ tsp.
- Salt, a pinch
- Marshmallow whipped cream, for topping
Begin by blending about ½ a cup of the milk and the cornstarch until smooth, while warming the rest of the milk over medium heat. Once you see tiny bubbles appearing at the side of the vessel, add the grated chocolate, honey, vanilla and the salt into milk and gently whip the mixture. Next add the cornstarch-milk mixture and continue whipping the concoction. Remember, if you want you can mix about ½ cup fruit, spice and whiskey flavoured liqueur such as 'Southern Comfort' with the chocolate, before you add the chocolate to the milk, or add 2 tablespoons of almond liqueur along with 3 tablespoons of orange juice instead. Once you get a smooth, uniform solution, allow steady boiling for 4 minutes and then turn off the heat. Allow the chocolate to cool down and then top it off with some rich marshmallow whipped cream.
Hot Chocolate with Alcohol
Well, this drink is strictly
for adults who like to mix it up once in a while. With rum and hazelnut liqueur keeping the chocolate company, this drink is the perfect concoction for a cold wintry night. Just gather,
- Milk, 3 cups
- Half and half, 1 cup
- Chocolate chips, ½ cup
- Hazelnut liqueur, ½ cup
- Rum, ½ cup
- Sugar, ½ cup
Start by melting the chocolate chips in a double boiler. Simultaneously, pour in the milk, the half and half and the sugar into a saucepan and start heating on medium. Keep stirring the mixture continuously until a slow boil sets in. Once both the chocolate and the milk mixture are ready, do not remove the chocolate from the heat. Gradually pour the latter into the chocolate until you have a lump-less and smooth liquid left. Add the liqueur and the rum to this, stir gently until you get a hot and smooth liquid and serve immediately. Cheers (hic)!
Like in any other delicacy, you can use your imagination while trying out any hot chocolate recipe and adding variant spices and flavoured items. I add nutmeg sometimes, for example. Whatever it is, whichever country it comes from, hot chocolate has never failed to fill anyone up with that warm positive feeling. It's just that with the recipes given above, you cannot go wrong, no matter what happens!