Ultimate Hot Chocolate

It isn’t often that I indulge in a cup of hot chocolate, but when I do, I want it to be rich, smooth and delicious down to the very last drop.  With only a handful of ingredients in my recipe, everything must be of the highest quality in order to taste like the best hot chocolate ever.  Fresh organic milk from a nearby farm, ultra-dark cocoa powder from France, bar chocolate from one of Belgium’s best chocolatiers and some vanilla sugar from my pantry is all I need to create this cold weather treat. 

Ultimate Hot Chocolate

Go to your pantry and gather the components to my ultimate hot chocolate, and treat yourself & a dear loved one to a mug of some.  I love having it after I’ve come in from a  brisk walk around town or from a trek around our trails, especially if there’s snow out.  It’s such a decadent tasting thing to have and yet, it’s one of the easiest things in the world to make.  Just a few minutes on the stove and voila.  Froth up some for your beloved this Valentine’s Day or make a single serving and enjoy it alone.  Either way, you’re going to love it!

Hot Chocolate Ingredients
  • 1 oz. {40 g} semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup {20 g} dutch-processed cocoa powder; I use Valrhona
  • 2 tablespoons {30 g}  vanilla sugar or regular granulated sugar
  • 16 oz. or 2 cups {1/2 liter} cold milk

Servings: 2 mugs of hot chocolate.
This recipe can be multiplied for many servings or can be cut in half for a single serving.

Note: if using regular granulated sugar, add 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract to the milk.

Let’s talk about the individual ingredients for a second.  I use chocolate is in two forms here: powdered and bar.  I love the smoothness and thickening power that cocoa powder gives to a cup of hot chocolate (use it exclusively in this drink and technically you have ‘hot cocoa’) and, if you must know, I’m partial to Valrhona from France.  It is used by the best pastry chefs throughout the world because it is unrivaled in terms of quality and flavor; look for it wherever you shop or get some online.  You can certainly use other brands of Dutch cocoa powder and still get a great tasting cup of chocolate though.  

Using bar chocolate in the drink gives it depth, sweetness and richness that is otherwise absent in hot cocoa.  Use whatever semisweet chocolate you happen to love, but I would highly recommend Callebaut, Scharffen Berger, Valrhona (of course) or El Rey.  

Remember: the better the chocolate the better the drink.

Vanilla sugar that has been cured in the pantry is an asset for any pastry chef and home baker.  Get into the habit of keeping some in a small jar to use for moments like these.  It will elevate your recipe from delicious to spectacular with this substitution.  If you don’t have vanilla sugar already made, simply add a small amount of pure vanilla extract (no imitation!).

In the past I’ve used almond and soy milk in my recipe with great success, but if I want a good, regular milk then I have to have organic.  My local Whole Foods Market supplies us with some wonderful organic milk from a nearby farm in Pennsylvania.  It’s worth the extra bit of expense.

In a heatproof bowl add the chopped semisweet chocolate, cocoa powder and granulated sugar.  Keep it nearby.

In a nonreactive saucepan, add the milk (and vanilla extract if using) and scald it.  In other words, bring it to just under a boil over medium heat.  Pour half of the milk into the bowl with the chocolate ingredients and begin whisking it to combine.  Whisk it well so that everything is melted and smooth.  

Pour the chocolate mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and return it to the stovetop.  

Over medium heat, whisk the hot chocolate until it is smooth, frothy and steaming.  Don’t let it come to a boil.

Pour it into your favorite mugs and enjoy with a macaron.

Make my ultimate hot chocolate soon because it is truly delicious.  You don’t have to wait for a snowy day or cold weather to have some, because it is great anytime you have a craving for chocolate.  Believe me, hot chocolate like this is rich enough to feel like you’re having dessert.  Whether you make one serving or a multitude of them for a large gathering, remember to always use the best ingredients you can find.  It makes all the difference in the world.  Be brave and use bittersweet chocolate instead if you prefer a darker, richer hot chocolate.  It won’t be as sweet, however, so you may have to add a bit more sugar.  Treat yourself & your loved ones today and bookmark the recipe.  I have a feeling you’re going to come back to it.