Saturday, January 2, 2010

Just Rich Enough

Occasionally I have an immediate need for something rich and indulgent. When this craving strikes during brisk winter months, I like to whip up some hot chocolate—not Swiss Miss cocoa, but the real deal.  Hot chocolate is a luxurious beverage that has long been enjoyed by Europeans. It’s made with real chopped chocolate, and should not be confused with hot cocoa, which is made with cocoa powder and either water or milk. Hot chocolate is much richer, made with water, milk and/or cream, and therefore it should be served in relatively small portions. It packs a real punch, but it is a true pleasure, particularly on a bitterly cold day. Americans have begun to embrace real hot chocolate and it’s showing up on menus at cafes and coffee houses across the country. The following recipe is rich, but not overly so. Just rich enough. Since chocolate is the star here, use the best chocolate available. I like to use a 65% Valrhona or Guittard variety. And, whatever you do, don’t forget the schlag (whipped cream).

Rich Hot Chocolate

Makes 4 demitasse servings

1 ½ cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
6 ounces top-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

1. In a small saucepan, combine the milk, cream and sugar and heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to bubble around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate.
2. Whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Serve immediately with sweetened whipped cream.