Hot chocolate mixes often (or always) disappoint. Sure, it’s convenient to dissolve a packet of chocolate flavored powder in a cup of hot water. But is it really satisfying? To me, hot chocolate should be dark, warm, rich, and chocolaty. When I take a sip, I want to feel the ambiance of the Polar Express with the sound of Tom Hanks voice singing, “HOT! HOT! HOT CHOCOLATE!”
When I lived in Boston I way too frequently visited a local chocolate shop that sold the best Mexican hot chocolate. It was so rich, spicy, and decadent that I could only handle the child cup size and the experience usually left me in a chocolate coma. But, I always went back for more. This week’s recipe is one of my favorite traditions during the holiday season. Inspired by my chocolate adventures back east, my spicy hot chocolate challenges any hot cocoa mix and is certain to fulfill your Polar Express dreams. Rich chocolate and milk are given depth with a hint of cinnamon and a spicy kick.
Ingredients: Serves 2
- 2 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (add extra tablespoon sugar), chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ancho chili powder, cayenne pepper, or chili flakes (to taste)
- Pinch of salt
- In a medium saucepan, heat milk and sugar over medium heat just until the simmering point (don’t burn the milk). Take off the heat and add chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, chili powder or flakes, and salt. Whisk mixture until chocolate is completely melted and dissolved.
- Strain mixture and pour back into a clean pan. Gently reheat mixture over medium low heat. If the mixture is too thick for your preference, add a little more milk. Serve immediately with whipped cream or homemade marshmallows.
Mix with a shot of espresso or ½ cup of strong brewed coffee… it’s delicious.
Baker’s notes: Like most recipes, the secret is in the ingredients. I use only the best chocolate I can find (Ghirardelli & Scharffen Berger are great and can be found in most grocery stores). Using chocolates with stabilizers, enhancers, and other agents can result in a strange consistency and taste. Yuck. But, when using pure chocolates in hot cocoa the mixture doesn’t hold very well when cooling and reheating. Just remember to serve immediately and not to let it sit very long.