When the weather dips below freezing and the sun sets in the afternoon, I make hot chocolate. It seems only fair. A warm mugful of rich, dark dessert fortifies against such conditions. My version is a compromise between the chocolate I used to dip churros into at three in the morning when I lived in Madrid–that is to say, a melted chocolate bar–and the insipid powder I knew growing up. (True fact: there is such a thing as diet powdered hot chocolate. I do not recommend it.)
It was the Frenchman who first introduced me to proper hot chocolate, made with milk and bar chocolate. Before I met him, I had no notion that hot chocolate could be anything more than the disappointing combination of sugary chocolate powder + water. But one icy weekend afternoon, when were were still living in Paris and the sun failed by four o’clock, he walked into the kitchen and clanked a pot onto the range. “I am going to make some hot chocolate,” he said. “Would you like a cup?”
I watched as he pulled a bottle of demi écrème milk from our refrigerator, and then a bar of good dark chocolate from the pantry. The drink came together quickly, simply, just two ingredients melted together in a pot. But when he handed me my steaming cup, it clicked. This idea fortifies me: start with a few great ingredients, don’t fuss with them too much, and the results are usually pretty good. We have been making real hot chocolate together on frigid winter days ever since.
This is the kind of recipe where, once you learn the basic proportions you prefer, you really don’t need a recipe at all. Use quality whole milk and the kind of dark bar chocolate you would appreciate eating on its own. (I have not tried it, but if you don’t do dairy, I imagine this would also taste lovely with almond milk.) The booze is optional, but dark rum tastes great alongside dark chocolate, and also works to cut through the cold.
This recipe can be scaled up to serve a crowd. If there are children in the bunch, skip the dark rum. (Alternatively, I will not judge you for sneaking an extra tablespoon of rum into the pot.) This hot chocolate is delicious even without the dollop of whipped cream and dark chocolate garnish, but the latter looks fancier, doesn’t it? I do not add sugar, because the milk and the chocolate are rich enough for me as is, but if you want it sweet, feel free to stir in some sugar to taste.
30 grams 70% dark chocolate
2 cups whole milk
a pinch of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/4 cup cream (optional)
5 grams 70% dark chocolate (optional)
Place the chocolate (30 grams) and the milk into a heavy bottomed pot, and turn the heat to low. After a few minutes, when the chocolate begins to melt, whisk occasionally, to help dissolve the chocolate into the milk.
Meanwhile, beat the cream until it is whipped to your desired consistency; I like to leave it a bit runny. (This can be done with a whisk by hand, but obviously it is easier done with an electric mixer. You will have most success with cold cream, a cold whisk, and a cold bowl.) Use a vegetable peeler to shave the remaining 5 grams of chocolate, as garnish. (I run the peeler along the longest exposed side of the chocolate.)
When the hot chocolate is hot enough to drink, whisk a pinch of kosher salt, the vanilla extract, and the dark rum into the pot. Divide the hot chocolate between two cups. Top each with the whipped cream and the chocolate shavings. Enjoy warm.