Many of us escape the winter cold by heading to Europe for summer sun, but 2020 has made that an impossibility.
But, forget virtual holidays - because you can escape both winter cold, and lockdown blues, by making the perfect European hot chocolate at home; the type you would find in Paris or Rome.
Hot chocolate sits on a spectrum. At one end is standard drinking chocolate. The mass market powder you pick up at the supermarket and you can quickly whip up a warm, sweet concoction. The good thing about these products is they are cheap and easy to access; however the downside is they don’t serve up much in terms of flavour or experience - and many have more sugar than they do chocolate (one well known brand contains just 21% cocoa).
On the other end of the spectrum, you have a luxurious, decadent hot chocolate - the type you would experience in Paris (chocolat chaud) or Rome (cioccolato caldo). The big difference is this type of hot chocolate is made from real chocolate. Whilst it does take a little longer to make, it is well worth the effort when you taste the difference. Plus, you have full control of the sweetness levels and you can add your favourite winter warming flavours.
There are two tricks to making the perfect European hot chocolate.
The first is to use the best quality chocolate you can get your hands on. The second is to gently heat on a stove top - not the microwave - where you can watch and adjust the heat, because neither chocolate nor milk are at their best when overheated.
What you’ll need:
- 200g chocolate 60-70% finely chopped - I love Valrhona Guanaja 70%
- 800ml full fat milk or your favourite non-dairy milk
- Optional: 2 teaspoons of muscovado sugar or other sweetener to taste (if you don’t like things so sweet, the sugar in the chocolate may be enough for you)
How to make:
- Gently heat the milk on the stove top until it is warmed through. Be careful not to bring it to a boil.
- Once your milk is warm, remove it from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until melted.
- Return the saucepan to the stovetop and heat gently for 3-5 minutes until you achieve your desired consistency. Continue to whisk as you heat.
- Add sugar or sweetener if using. Add in increments, tasting as you go, until you reach your preferred sweetness level.
- Add any other flavour options whilst continuing to whisk, see below for ideas.
- Sit back, relax, drink and imagine yourself in a Parisian cafe on a sunny day.
This recipe can be made in advance and kept in the fridge, which will also help it to thicken. Gently reheat to serve.
Additional Flavour Inspirations
- A few flakes of quality sea salt
- Vanilla seeds or a whole vanilla pod with seeds removed
- A few tablespoons of heavy cream
- A dash of cognac or whisky
- Mint leaves