Just in case my earlier entry highlighting my love of vegetables led you to think I'm some sort of a health nut, think again: I'm a raging chocoholic. And I love love love hot chocolate, especially when the weather starts to turn cold. I grew up in a Swiss Miss household, with the occasional cup of Ovaltine thrown in when I visited Grandma, so I didn't discover that hot chocolate came from anything but dry mix packets until I lived in Spain for a year, where I made it a habit of ending a long night of bar-hopping at the Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid. This place serves deeply satisfying cups of thick dark hot chocolate with perfectly warm and crunchy churros (the Spanish donut). Needless to say, I was hooked (and I subsequently gained a few pounds).
Now I'm back, I've lost the weight, but I still indulge in the occasional homemade hot chocolate. It's easier than you'd think to make a perfect cup at home, and if you live in New York, you'll appreciate not having to spend $5 or more for the privilege. Here's my secret recipe...
The Most Delicious Hot Chocolate Recipe
(yield: 1 quart)
- 4 cups milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
- pinch of salt
- 5 ounces good quality dark chocolate pieces (I used 60% Ghirardelli chocolate chips)
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, vanilla bean (if using), cinnamon, cayenne (if using) and salt over medium heat just until steaming, not boiling.
Turn off the heat and remove the vanilla pod halves, if using. Add the chocolate chips or pieces (if you start with a whole chocolate bar, the best method is to grate it as you would a piece of cheese using a box grater. The small and even pieces will melt quickly and uniformly). Stir with a whisk until the chocolate is completely melted, leaving no visible pieces. Add the vanilla extract, if you haven't used the vanilla bean. Pour into a container and cool completely before storing, covered, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.