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Favorite Homemade Hot Chocolate Recipe?

I'm hosting a "small bites" party in about a month, and would love to serve some stellar hot chocolate to accompany my holiday cookie assortment. Any recipes and/or techniques that you would be willing to share would be greatly appreciated!

Mainly, I'm looking for a rich, creamy drink that is not too overpowering in flavor and creates a smooth, thick sensation on the tongue.

Any unique flavor additions that you enjoy would definitely be fun to hear about!

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  1. Our local paper just ran a bunch of recipes for hot chocolate made not from cocoa but from melted chocolate--this one if from John Scharffenberger, but it links to the other recipes from the story:
    http://www.oregonlive.com/foodday/ore...

    1. Today I heated a mug of nonfat milk (prefer whole or a good dose of half and half when I have it on hand) and added:

      1/8 cup Trader Joe's dark chocolate (I chop up one of those Pound Plus bars and keep it for baking and hot chocolate)

      a dash of cayenne pepper

      a dash of cinnamon

      a teaspoon or two of clover honey

      I love the extra warmth the cayenne adds without actually making the drink taste spicy. The honey I added because I saw Nigella Lawson do it on TV, but I couldn't say I like or dislike it without a side by side comparison with a sugared version.

      1. This is the recipe I use, real hot chocolate is so unbelievable, it amazes me everytime I make it! http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Katie Nell

          Hello there
          I work in a restaurant and would like to introduce the sipping chocolate and serve it with some shortbread or some kind of cookies, but i need to experiment a little with the chocolate sipping recipe. Could you please tell me wich link is the Nettie one?
          Also, any other place where i can search for some choices for sipping chocolate?
          Thank you for your help

        2. If you're looking for rich, creamy, and smooth, then you probably want a ganache based hot chocolate.

          You can make the ganache ahead of time with your solid chocolate and cream, then just heat milk at service time and whisk in the ganache. You can follow John Scharffenberger's suggestion in the link Nettie provided to use an immersion blender to do the stirring for a slightly frothy hot cocoa. The components are not much different from any other method, but making the ganache ahead of time makes it much easier to mix in the chocolate to the warm milk.

          There are two things to be worried about from a technique perspective:
          1) when you heat milk if you don't stir constantly it scalds on the bottom and deposites proteins and sugars on the bottom of the pan. The flavor also takes a hit.
          2) when you heat chocolate, if you do it over direct heat it is easy to burn the chocolate which will again hurt the flavor. The nice thing about ganache is you just heat the cream until it is sanitized (> 165 degrees), remove from heat, and drop in your chocolate in small chunks. Let the heat of the cream melt the chocolate, then stir with a whisk until smooth.

          1 Reply
          1. re: SteveG

            So I have a bunch of ganache left over from a truffle making escapade, and I want to make it into hot chocolate tomorrow. What proportion of hot milk to ganache would you recommend to get the beverage to the right consistency and flavor? I don't want my guests to feel like they're drinking a liquid candy bar...

            Also, I want to toss in some cinnamon and possibly nutmeg and cayenne...I'm thinking it would be best to stir the powders into the ganache before adding the milk, so that it all combines properly. Any suggestions here?

          2. "ganache based hot chocolate"...the name alone is making me drool. i will definitely give that a go.

            and Nettie, that link is wonderful.

            thanks a million, all of you!

            a cooking-with-real-chocolate (as opposed to powdered stuff)-novice question: can i chop up a bar of good chocolate in a food processor? or will something bad happen?

            another question: sans thermometer, is there a good way to tell when the milk is hot enough w/o letting it scald?

            7 Replies
            1. re: Aloo0628

              I use my food processor to chop chocolate. You need to be careful not to over process as it can get warm and well, you know what happens to chocolate that gets warm. A few quick pulses and you're good.

              1. re: sharonanne

                that's exactly what i was worried about...great answer, thanks! :-)

                1. re: sharonanne

                  maybe chilling the workbowl and blade in the freezer for a little bit would help?

                  1. re: MaspethMaven

                    I don't know if that would help but a light touch works well.

                2. re: Aloo0628

                  I don't think my food processor could handle chocolate. I saw Alton Brown use an interesting chopping technique that I want to try: he put a serrated bread knife sharp edge down on a corner of a block of chocolate, and then tapped the back edge of the knife with a wood rolling pin--that seemed to shear off the chocolate pretty well.

                  1. re: Nettie

                    whoa! i just watched that episode an hour ago! what a coinkydink... :-) my food processor's tiny...so i'll probably give alton's method a try. it looks more fun anyhow!

                  2. re: Aloo0628

                    as for knowing when the milk is hot enough... i'm not sure you could do it without a thermometer. i worked as a barista for 4 years and i can tell by the sound when heating with a steamer (like on a capuccino machine) or sometimes by the smell, at least i used to be able to, probably not now tho.

                    and as for good hot chocolate? as long as its hot and really creamy... its good. although i do like adding a cinnamon stick and fresh nutmeg to the milk as it heats.

                  3. I did hot chocolate for a Feliz Navidad party last week. My intent was to serve about 16 women a small teacup of rich ho cho.

                    I dumped a 1/2 gallon of 2% milk into a large pot and warmed it slowly on medium until it began to steam. Hand chopped w/ a chef's knife a little less than a pound of dark Callebaut and then rounded out the pound w/ 70% Scharfenburger. I did not chop it super fine.

                    While that was melting into the milk, I whisked together 8 Tbs of Valhrona cocoa w/ another cup of milk. I added that + 10 Tbs. brown sugar to the mix. Then I hit it with the immersion blender.

                    Because the party's theme was Mexican, I let a vanilla bean and some orange peel steep in the milk while it was steaming. Then I added a hint of almond flavoring and "good" cinnamon. Finally I added some Fluer de Sel just because I read it on Chowhound recently.

                    This made a little less than 3/4 of a gallon, which I stored in the fridge until the party, when I reheated it (lid on) until steamy and re-frothed. It was pretty damn good. Of course, you could up the milk-fat content if you wanted to, but all that chocolate makes it quite rich in any case. It may be difficult for me to return to my typical skim-milk-&-cocoa "hot chocolate".

                    1. js bonbons, a chocolate shop in Toronto, makes wonderful flavored hot chocolate at their chocolate bar. My favorite was the lavender (but I didn't try them all).

                      http://www.jsbonbons.com/bar.php

                      I don't know if they make a sugar syrup with the spices, or infuse the milk with them, or what. But I'll bet you could wing it.

                      Anne

                      1. These are all great and I was going to add the almond extract but the previous poster beat me to it. If I'm making mine for everyday stuff I just sprinkle a few drops of extract into the drink. If you want something special make a whipped cream topping substituting almond extract for vanilla extract.

                        1. We make hot cocoa by grating (with a box grater) a disc of Ibarra chocolate and mixing it with 3 cups of hot milk with a stick blender. It's nice and tasty and you get a lovely froth on top...

                          1. Have you tried Trader Joe's Sipping Chocolate? It's for dark chocolate lovers only, and I've been buying the tins up and squirreling them away because I'm not sure it'll be around for long.

                            1. If you can find a bag of coffee chips they add a nice java tone to hot cocoa.

                              1. Callebaut chocolate sauce in hot milk. I don't know how widely available this is. I live in the land of Callebaut so it's easy for me. The sauce is thick like a ganache, you spoon it out of the jar not pour.

                                1. my trick is that i always add a good healthy dose of chipotle pepper, as well as freshly grated cinnamon and nutmeg, to a high quality pre-ground chocolate mix. adding a slug of rum or bourbon also goes over well with guests!

                                  1. I dream at night about the Chocolat Africain at ANGELINA in Paris. Thick, rich, wonderful, with just a dish of Chantilly on the side.

                                    If anyone has the recipe, I would be most appreciative.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Fleur

                                      I'm not sure if this particular recipe is there, but check out David Lebowitz's Paris blog for some great French chocolate recipes:

                                      http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives...

                                      Anne

                                    2. The last time I made hot chocolate I used Abuelita chocolate and 2% milk; I then topped it off with a big hunk of homemade peppermint marshmallow. The marshmallow thickened and sweetened the milk and the peppermint gave it a kick...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: acme

                                        Oh my that sounds delightful, acme! Last night I melted a caramel in my hot chocolate..next time I'll try a peppermint stick.

                                      2. some great suggestions here--if you have a stick blender, there's definitely lots of room to experiment on small batches to find add-ins that you like (from fruity to nutty to spicy).

                                        I'm surprised, though, that nobody has pointed out that a tiny pinch of salt can be essential to the depth of flavor. Without it, the chocolate can be bland (if not very sweet), or cloyingly sweet.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: another_adam

                                          I concur. Hawaiian red sea salt is my preferred choice, but a pinch of any variety goes a long way in intensifying the chocolate flavour.

                                          Whole milk and dark chocolate (in the 50-70% range) along with tiny pinches of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg makes up my standard drinking chocolate. I'll add sugar if I'm using a darker chocolate, and I never forget the salt. (I will, though, omit the salt if I'm making it for other people since, for some reason, that weirds out many folks.)

                                        2. My aunt introduced me to a really yummy hot chocolate this winter:
                                          2 oz. chunk of milk chocolate melted into 2 cups milk, 2-3 dried ancho chiles, and a cinnamon stick. Umm ... it was spicy, warm and chocolaty goodness!