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Hot Chocolate from Chocolate, with many variations


My current favorite way to prepare hot chocolate is the simplest possible, and really brings home the flavor of the chocolate you start with:  just hot water and chocolate.  I find it more satisfying than starting with chocolate than cocoa, and if I have a mug with breakfast, I can go a long time before lunch.  In the plainest version, you only taste the chocolate, unadulterated;  I am partial to Scharffenberger's 70% bittersweet, but it is more important to start with a good rich chocolate that you enjoy eating than to use any one variety.

With milk:
Richer and more like what you're probably used to

Dark semisweet or bittersweet chocolate of your choice, about 1 ounce, broken up into small bits

1 C milk

In the mug you'll drink from, microwave the chocolate for about a minute on high power.  Remove from microwave and, in a separate container, microwave the milk for 1-2 minutes until it is hot but not boiling.  While the milk heats, stir the melting chocolate.  It probably will still have some lumps.

Pour the hot milk over the chocolate and stir until smooth.  If it tastes a little thin, add a bit more chocolate next time.

With water:
Less rich, but more purely chocolate, and simpler to make

Dark semisweet or bittersweet chocolate of your choice, about 1 ounce, broken up into small bits
1 C boiling water

Pour the water over the chocolate and stir until smooth.  If it tastes a little thin, add a bit more chocolate.  Be careful when tasting, as this really holds the heat and easily burns your mouth.  I often start with a little less water, and add an ice cube at the end to take the edge off.

Chocolate and chipper

Some more variations to tempt your palate:

With chili and cinnamon

With Thai lime and long pepper

With Arabian Spices

With Star Anise and Pink Pepper

With Cassia buds, Orange and Cardamom

With Ginger and Cardamom

With Mace, Star Anise, and Cinnamon

With Coconut Curry

With Basil and Long Pepper

With Osmanthus ("Orchid") Blossoms

With Chili and Cinnamon
warm and spicy, just lovely; by far my favorite lately, one I can drink daily for months at a time without getting tired of it 

1/4 teaspoon ground new mexico chili (nice chili flavor with a bit of heat)
1/8 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

I've been using the 'red new mexico chile powder (hot)' from los chileros, which is quite lovely stuff.

With Thai lime and long pepper

1-2 oz cream
2 lime leaves*
1-2 oz bittersweet chocolate, in small pieces
pint milk
2 long peppercorns
** , freshly ground

Heat the cream briefly in the microwave with the lime leaves.  Let steep 10 minutes.

Heat the milk to just below boiling then pour over the chocolate and stir until smooth.  Strain the cream mixture into the chocolate, and stir in the pepper.

*"Thai" or "makrut" or "kaffir" lime leaves, fresh or frozen, found in asian markets

ong pepper is a cousin to black peppercorns, but they are about an inch long; their flavor is pepper plus a fruitier component, reminiscent of cardamom.  You are unlikely to find them most places that sell spices (I get mine online), but recently I found them featured at Whole Foods.  A good alternative would be 1/4 teaspoon black pepper plus a pinch of ground cardamom.

With Arabian Spices

Pint milk
1-2 oz bittersweet chocolate, in small pieces
1/4 t cardamom seeds (or 1/4-1/2 t ground cardamom)
1/4 t whole mace bits (or 1/4 t freshly ground nutmeg)
1/4 inch vietnamese stick cinnamon, broken up into bits

Zap milk in microwave to just boiling or heat on stove.   Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted and smooth.

While heating milk, grind the spices in a peppermill, or add ground spices if you must.  The whole spices freshly ground have a more rounded flavor, especially the fresh mace, so are worth seeking out.  Indian groceries are great sources for whole mace.  Ground mace in the cans is almost worthless, so I'd grate a bit of nutmeg instead.

With Star Anise and Pink Pepper
The genius behind this flavor combination was not mine--I got the idea from Michael Recchiuti's chocolates

As above, but stir in about

1/8-1/4 teaspoon powdered star anise
1/8 teaspoon ground pink peppercorn

or more to taste.  I like to make up a couple of tablespoons of this in my spice mill and add a generous pinch to my chocolate until it runs out.


Steep in 2 tbsp hot cream (preferably let it cool overnight in the fridge)
1 star anise
6-10 pink peppercorns, coarsely crushed

And stir into your chocolate as above.

Note that the pink peppercorn is not a pink version of black pepper, but a different plant, native to Brazil.  

With Cassia buds, Orange and Cardamom

delicately fruity and spicy

In a spice grinder, mix together 1 part cardamom seeds (not pods, just seeds) to 2 parts cassia buds and pulverize to fine powder.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of this to a pint of hot chocolate made as above, a few drops of orange oil.


1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
2-3 drops of orange oil

With Ginger and Cardamom
the ginger makes the chocolate seem sweeter

1 part ground cardamom seeds
(if starting from whole spices, use the seeds and not the pods)
4 parts ginger

just under 1/4 teaspoon of this mix per 8 oz cup of chocolate

With Mace, Star Anise, and Cinnamon
this combination gives a little more roundness to the flavor than you'd get by nutmeg or mace alone--the cinnamon is only an accent

In a spice grinder, mix together
2 parts blade mace (whole mace pieces, easily available at Indian groceries)
1 part star anise
1 part cinnamon sticks, ideally the thinner, softer ceylon or vietnamese cinnamon

pulverize to fine powder.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of this to a pint of hot chocolate made as above, stir, and enjoy.


1/4 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg, freshest is best
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/8 teaspoon ground star anise or anise seed

With coconut currry
(inspired by the Vosges Naga milk chocolate bar)

1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon coriander
3/8 teaspoon mild chili powder or sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coconut milk powder or unsweetened dried flaked coconut, whirled with the spices in a spice grinder

Use about 1 tablespoon of this mixture per cup of strong hot chocolate, or to taste

With basil and long pepper
I recommend making no more than you intend to drink at one time; the delicate basil flavors do not withstand refrigeration or freezing well

one half pint heavy cream
about two ounces or 4-6 stems of fresh basil, rinsed and coarsely chopped
12-15 long peppercorns, freshly ground, or about 1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper

Heat the cream, basil and pepper together to near boiling, keep hot about 5 minutes, then let steep overnight in the refrigerator.  Heat again the next morning, drain and strain through a fine strainer.  The heating and steeping can be done in a very small saucepan on the stove, with careful stirring, or in a glass dish in the microwave.  You may need to press the leaves into the cream a few times as they heat up and soften, because the cream will not want to cover them all at first.

Then stir a little of this mixture into a cup of hot chocolate made with about one ounce of chocolate, to your taste.

With one and a half teaspoons to a cup, it was barely detectable, not too interesting. 
One tablespoon per cup was getting downright lively and interesting. 
One and a half tablespoons per cup is fabulous.  Basil and pepper coming through clearly, but gently.  Yum.

Chocolate with Osmanthus blossoms

Dried osmanthus blossoms are used to flavor teas:  often mixtures with 'orchid' in the name are flavored with osmanthus.  I had some around, and a post in the chocolate topic in chow.ind on the WELL got me thinking....and steeping....

About 1 tablespoon (15 mL) dried osmanthus blossoms

1 cup very hot water (boiling or near boiling)

1 ounce dark chocolate

Steep the osmanthus in the hot water for 5 minutes.  Strain the flowers out and pour the hot water over the chocolate in a clean glass or mug.  Stir.  Enjoy!

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