The Hot Chocolate That Knocks Everyone’s Socks Off

hot chocolate recipe

hot chocolate recipe

Remember three years ago? That first gnarly pandemic winter, when we’d all been scared and inside for so long that we’d burned through all our coping mechanisms? It was doozy of a February. That was the February I decided to learn how to make really good hot chocolate.

I first tried Parisian-style chocolat chaud at one of those overpriced tourist traps by the Tuileries when I was 22 — and thought myself far too sophisticated to be impressed by an expensive (and tiny!) cup of cocoa. Then I took a sip. This was not cocoa. The stuff in that cup wasn’t even a cousin of the hot chocolate I’d grown up drinking. It was rich and dark, and it hit me like medicine. I wandered around the park afterward, thinking, “Oh, wow, chocolate can get you high.”

It was so good that I never even bothered trying to replicate it, until that particularly gloomy winter when the thought of medicinal hot chocolate sounded particularly appealing. To my shock, it took only some brief Googling and 10 minutes at the stove to make a cup that brought me right back to that Parisian café.

Making hot chocolate became a soothing nighttime ritual. I’d stand in the dim kitchen in my nightgown, stirring and pouring into one of my favorite mugs. I’d dollop some whipped cream on top and carry it to my bed, tuck myself in, and drink it under the covers. Years later, I still find the process incredibly comforting, especially on deep-winter nights.

And let me tell you, there’s also something pretty great about being the person who knows how to make really good hot chocolate. Offer to make it for dessert at a dinner party, and watch as all the grown-ups turn into 10-year-olds on a snow day, screaming with delight over the best cocoa they’ve ever had. Pack up the ingredients with instructions on a notecard, and leave them at the doorstep of a friend who’s under the weather or just had a baby. Hot chocolate is always a pick-me-up.

Here’s my recipe for chocolat chaud. I’m sure an actual Parisian would have notes, but I say feel free to fiddle with it and make it your own. (I came up with my version after fiddling with these three all winter.) Some folks like more sugar, and others add extracts or espresso to the chocolate — but I find this simple, barely sweetened version takes the chocolate flavor from rich to outrageous. There are only a few MUSTS when it comes to this recipe:

1. Get the good chocolate. There is a time and place for Tollhouse, and this isn’t it. You want bittersweet, and the highest cacao percentage you can find (70-85%). I usually use Guittard baking bars.

2. When pouring the hot chocolate, fill the mug only halfway. First, because this stuff is intense, and second, because…

3. Whipped cream is mandatory. I am dead serious here. You want half your cup filled with chocolate, and the other half filled with a heaping dollop of fresh whipped cream. The ratio should look ridiculous. I will not be taking questions.

Fancy Hot Chocolate
1 cup milk (ideally whole or 2%, but whatever you’ve got)
2 cups heavy cream, divided
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into chunks
1 tbsp brown sugar (light or dark)
1 good pinch of salt
1 tbsp powdered sugar (granulated works in a pinch!)
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a small pot, combine the milk with one cup of heavy cream (put the cream back in the fridge so it stays super cold!). Place the pot over medium-ish heat and watch until the milk is scalding, then remove immediately so it doesn’t boil. You’ll know it’s scalded when tiny bubbles form around the edges. (But if you’re nervous, you can stick a thermometer in there, and move the milk off the heat when it reaches 180 degrees.)

Stir the chocolate, brown sugar and salt into the scalded milk. Whisk it slowly until everything’s combined, and the mixture is dark, smooth and thick.

Set the pot aside and make the whipped cream (mandatory!). Pour the remaining cold cream into a bowl, mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla, and whip until it forms soft-but-sturdy peaks. You can use a stand mixer, a stick blender with a whisk attachment, or good old-fashioned elbow grease. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

Fill your favorite mug halfway with hot chocolate, and top it with a big scoop of whipped cream. Leave the rest covered on the stove in case you want seconds, and go get cozy.

P.S. A boxed brownie mix taste test, and the quick dessert I bring to every party.

(Photos by Kelsey Miller.)

Source – Cup of joy