Now that the year of my first Olympic triathlon is upon me, it’s time for work. New Year’s Day seems like the most logical day to forge ahead with my 2014 goals, so I went to join a gym with a balmy 85-degree indoor pool yesterday. Instead of the long gym registration line, I was the only one in the parking lot. So… the only logical assumption is that no one is quite ready to give up on holiday gluttony yet!! Good! Because today we’re discussing chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). And yes, I must say it in French. One of my 2014 goals is to say more in French. Désolée.
What most people think of when we talk about hot chocolate is actually hot cocoa, and they are two completely different things. Hot cocoa is cocoa + sugar mixed into milk, and hot chocolate is chocolate melted into milk.
Chocolate melted into milk.
The richest, most outrageous, chocolat chaud is made one way: by melting chocolate in milk or, if you’re feeling particularly celebratory, half and half. There is no added sugar, but the sweetness can be adjusted by using different amounts of milk chocolate and bittersweet chocolate. You adjust the hot chocolate flavor with…more chocolate. I can live by those standards.
I’ve had so many gourmet hot chocolates in my life only to hear the Debbie Downer music once the first sip crosses my lips because there is no substitute for real chocolat chaud. As the French name suggests, you’re mostly going to find it in a French or Belgian cafe, where they know what’s up in the chocolate-drinking world. It might be the only thing the two countries can agree on, but let’s be honest: it’s the most important thing.
Oh, did someone mention Belgium? Favoritest country ever? Well, since you brought it up… chocolat chaud calls for the best chocolate out there, and that’s Belgian. Everyone reading this chocolate rant has, at one point or another, ‘liked’ some sort of quote on someone’s Facebook page about loving yourself more, and loving yourself means treating yourself to the good chocolate when it matters. It matters now. I used to have to lie, steal, cheat, and/or kill for Callebaut chocolate here in Knoxville, but one of my top stories of 2013 was that Trader Joe’s has one-pound slabs of delicious Belgian chocolate for a ridiculously cheap price. I’m not going to say how many pounds I may or may not have purchased this year, but suffice to say it’s what I use all the time and I’m an outrageously snobby consumer of chocolate.
I’m not sure where or when the American ‘hot cocoa’ version displaced the thick, rich, amazing European version, but I’m launching a grassroots effort to bring. it. back. I just made it for New Year’s Day breakfast to drink alongside my friend’s homemade croissants. That’s right, my first day of 2014 involved chocolat chaud and homemade croissants. Wait, that’s not all. There was candied bacon, too. And two toddlers running around naked. And fabulous friends (who were not naked. Just to clarify.) And lessons in ‘cool’ music from my college-age brother. And ‘Will and Kate Plus One’ on DVR during nap time. Magnifique!!
Welcome, 2014!!! So many goals! So much excitement! So much chocolate to drink!! Let’s do this!!!
- 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 4 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 qt whole milk or half and half
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of cinnamon (if desired)
- Warm milk or half and half in a saucepan over medium heat. Add chocolate and a pinch of salt and whisk frequently until all the chocolate is melted. Add cinnamon (if using). To make hot chocolate a little frothy, buzz a hand blender around the saucepan, but this is totally optional.