This one is for my friend Shannon, who has a fondness for Dandelion Chocolate’s European Drinking Chocolate. And who wouldn’t?
The first time I noticed a difference between American hot chocolate and what is served elsewhere was when I was traveling around France. This was about fifteen years back. We stayed in small inexpensive hotels, and breakfast was included with the room. The meal always consisted of some kind of bread–croissant with jam, baguette with chocolate–and either coffee or hot chocolate. The coffee and chocolate were both very thick, very rich, and it was a bracing and decadent way to start the day. Not to generalize, but most of the American hot chocolate I’ve had tends to be lighter, a bit sweeter and thinner.
Am I making it the right way? Who knows? I looked at a few recipes for European drinking chocolate, and I ran into the same brain scramble I experience when trying to find definitive methods for tea preparation. Everybody has a slightly different method, each person claiming authenticity, the source of the claims a bit muddy. But we’re preparing chocolate, which maybe shouldn’t be such serious business. A lot of recipes I referenced had way too many steps. In the end I wanted the resulting beverage to be distinctly different from a typical cup of hot chocolate, and when I tasted this I had a vivid “wow” moment. Yes, I actually said “wow” even though there was no one around to hear it.
The one piece of equipment you will need is a frothing whisk. You could use a wooden Mexican molinillo, but they are harder to find, and most I’ve seen are of poor quality. The battery-operated metal kind are not expensive. I don’t usually encourage people to clutter up their kitchens with gadgetry, but if you plan on drinking a lot of chocolate and you want it to look as good as it tastes, you need the whisk because the chocolate and milk won’t come together without it, and you will have flecks of chocolate throughout your drink and a hearty sludge at the bottom of the cup. With it you will have smooth, residue-free decadence (see empty cup below).
Drinking Chocolate (makes 1 – 4 oz. / 120ml demitasse cup serving)
1/2 cup (120ml) milk–I would use whole milk, but you can use lighter milk. Some people use half and half or cream, but that will be very rich indeed.
1 oz. (30g) excellent quality dark chocolate (I used 70% cocoa), finely chopped
Pinch sea salt–yes, this makes it even better
Put the chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the milk over low/medium heat until hot. Don’t boil the milk. Pour the milk over the chocolate and gently stir to melt. The chocolate will not completely melt into the milk, but will settle to the bottom of the bowl. Let the mixture sit for at least an hour. The flavor of the chocolate deepens if it sits for a while. If you want to make it the day before or let it sit for a longer period of time, you can refrigerate it.
When you’re ready to serve…
Boil some water and add it to the serving cups. This is important. The chocolate is heated until it is just hot; adding it to a cold cup will bring the temperature down too low and it will turn cold in a heartbeat.
Put the chocolate mixture back in the pot, add the salt and reheat over low to medium heat until just hot. To be clear you do want it hot, not lukewarm. Fully immerse the whisk in the chocolate and give it a whiz until things are nice and frothy, about 5 seconds.
Empty the water from the serving cup, add the chocolate. Serve.