Haute Hot Chocolate

All of the cookbooks on my overburdened kitchen shelves are well-loved, if not well-worn. Cursed with the compulsive desire to own every shiny beautiful new cookbook I see, it seems impossible to fully bond with all of them beyond an admiring initial read-through. There are a few, however, that I couldn’t live without. And come the holidays, I always find myself turning the sticky, scuffed, chocolate-stained pages of pastry chef Sherry Yard‘s The Secrets of Baking,” particularly when I’m in the mood for hot cocoa.

sherryyardThis morning I made a batch of Sherry’s “Campton Place Hot Chocolate” to celebrate the trimming of our Christmas Tree. You can too, all you need is your weight in chocolate and cream, and a few pots. Easy!

This recipe is actually three recipes in one, and when all is said and done, here’s what you’re going to need:

16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

3.5 cups cream

2 cups whole milk (please don’t use skim and break my whole milk-worshipping heart)

2 tbls. unsweetened cocoa powder (I sift mine but that’s just because I’m OCD about lumps in my cocoa powder, you don’t have to)

1/2 tsp. Tia Maria (a coffee liqueur, most liquor stores around here have it and it’s about $20) or vanilla extract

So let’s talk chocolate. This simple recipe is as good as the ingredients you use, so the better your chocolate, the richer the finished product. You can buy some fancy couverture or a block of high quality bittersweet chocolate, or you can cheat like I usually do and use a bag of Ghiradelli’s 60% bittersweet chocolate chips. Yes, they don’t have the depth and nuance of loftier chocolates, but they’re pretty good and they’re on sale at Freddy’s and since they’re already in bitty, uniform pieces, you don’t have to fanny around with chopping a bunch of chocolate into quarter-inch chunks. And that’s my two cents about that. Let’s get down to business.

The first thing you need to do is make a pot of ganache. If you don’t know what ganache is, you should, because it’s up there with air and water. It’s just chopped chocolate and hot cream mixed together, with the ratio varied according to what consistency you want for whatever you’re going to do with it later–sandwich it between cookies, glaze a cake, stuff a cream puff, fill a belly button. The batch we’re making is equal parts, so set aside 8 oz of chocolate in a mixing bowl and heat 1 cup of cream on medium heat in a small pot until it bubbles around the edges but hasn’t quite boiled. Then pour the cream over the chips, let the mixture sit for a minute, and gently mix it. You’re not supposed to incorporate a lot of air into the ganache but since you’re just going to dump it into hot milk later, not top a cake with it, a few bubbles won’t hurt. Once you’ve thoroughly mixed the chocolate and cream into a smooth, dark and creamy ganache, test it with enthusiasm and set it aside.

In another pot, a medium-sized one, heat the 2 cups of whole milk and 1/2 cup of cream until it nearly boils. Toss in the two tablespoons of cocoa powder and either mix them in thoroughly by hand with a whisk or have at it with the immersion blender. Normally I do things the hard way, but I embrace any chance to use my lovely green Cuisinart immersion blender. Take the pot off the heat and pour in the ganache you made a few minutes ago, provided you didn’t eat it all with a spoon, like I did once, by accident. Let them hang out for a minute, then stir until completely blended. Add the Tia Maria or vanilla and stir a bit more. In place of the Tia Maria or vanilla, you could add anything you wanted–different liqueurs, extracts, cinnamon…have some fun.


marshmallowmugtpprThe third step, or Chocolate Whipped Cream step, is optional. You are essentially making a thin ganache/thick cream to whip up and top the hot chocolate with. This is the extra credit step. If you’re sick of mixing chocolate and cream at this point, just buy some of Steve Gazda’s butterscotch, peppermint, vanilla or brown sugar marshmallow mug toppers at Northwest Sweets on Northwest 23rd Avenue and use those on top, they’re amazing.  Or, press on!

hautechocHeat the final two cups of cream until quite hot, pour it over the final 8 oz of chocolate, let it rest for a minute, and mix thoroughly. Chill it for four hours or overnight, then whip it good with a whisk or hand mixer for a minute or two until it forms soft peaks. Don’t get excited and overwhip it. Finally, spoon great gobs of your newly made chocolate whipped cream on top of your mugs of cocoa.

And there you have it. Enjoy!