There's nothing nicer on a really cold day than curling up with a book and a good mug of hot chocolate. But don't be fooled into thinking that hot chocolate is just sickly-sweet brown powder topped up with water. Real hot chocolate is a sensual, indulgent experience, strictly for appreciative adults.
Things To Avoid
Drinking Chocolate Powder - This tends to be too sugary and never seems to dissolve correctly - possibly because the powder is too coarse.
Anything that promises to be low calorie - Hot chocolate is not about calorie counting. It is about indulging your appetite for a rich, satisfying hot drink which may very well spoil your evening meal.
Flavoured sachets of chocolate - They never taste anything like they're meant to.
Rushing it - This is not convenience food. It is an experience.
Indulgent Hot Chocolate Recipe
You will need:
Milk - Make sure this is full-fat milk, and preferably Gold Top Jersey or Guernsey milk, or any other milk renowned for its richness. This ensures a fuller flavour.
Cocoa Powder - A packet of good quality, fine-grained cocoa powder. If you can get your hands on it, Rowntrees1 Cocoa is ideal. It must not have added sugar.
Chocolate Bar - A bar of good quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa solid content. Chocolate with high cocoa solid content is more flavoursome then those with more milk or vegetable solid content. Green and Black's, for example, do very good dark chocolate with 70% Cocoa Solids. Please, please don't use low-quality chocolate or dark cooking chocolate. It makes a mockery of the whole process.
Cream - A small carton of double cream, or if preferred, whipping cream. This should be emptied into a bowl and whipped till stiff prior to starting the chocolate-making process.
Milk Chocolate Flakes - Many chocolatiers sell chocolate flakes in tubs. However, the approved method is to buy a flaky chocolate bar and break it up into a bowl with a spoon.
Making the Chocolate
Measure out enough milk to fill your desired receptacle three-quarters full. Pour into the milk pan and place it onto a ring on the hob. Light the hob and turn it to a fairly low heat. Do not allow the milk to boil.
Spoon in three teaspoons of cocoa and whisk till small bubbles form on the surface of the milk. Continue to stir with the whisk. Break up three or four squares of the dark chocolate and drop them into the milk. Once they begin to melt, keep them moving with the whisk, then begin to whisk briskly until the milk is a smooth and uniform colour and texture. Make sure the milk is hot, but not boiling.
Spoon one dessert spoonful of whipped cream and one of chocolate flakes into your mug, cup or glass. Turn off the heat and carefully pour the hot chocolate mixture on top of the cream. Spoon on a little more whipped cream if necessary or desired. Top with a few more milk chocolate flakes. Drink the chocolate through the cream and clean up any reserve of cream or melted chocolate with your long-handled spoon.
There are several variations on this hot chocolate theme. Of course sugar can be added if you have an especially sweet tooth, but you may prefer the taste of caramel syrup. Different flavours can be achieved this way. For instance, chopping up a few segments of Chocolate Orange and adding this to the milk can provide a pleasantly subtle orangey tang. Adding coffee essence can enhance the chocolate flavour. To discover what variation suits you best, experiment and have fun. And enjoy!