So, I have a new obsession. A new passion, as my dad puts it, trying to sound encouraging. It’s hot chocolate.
Hot chocolate. As Fred Thompson, hot chocolate-maker genius, says, “when the hot chocolate is rich and creamy, who cares about calories? Just mellow into the sensual experience.”
I do. At least, I try to. When I come home from school, after a long day, with lots of homework and that constant stress that always seems to follow you around when you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, what I most love to do is to settle down and stir up a pot of hot chocolate. Whatever will do, but what I’ve learned just might be the ULTIMATE secret to eternal hot-chocolate delight. You have to use CHOCOLATE. Not cocoa powder, but rather real chocolate. Any sort works: chocolate chips, chocolate bars, baking chocolate, chocolate squares. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, semisweet chocolate, unsweetened, bittersweet chocolate–none of this matters, but rather the delicious experience of stirring it around…and around…and around…and taking a spoon and scraping the leftover melted chocolate from the bottom of the pan (then guiltily savoring it with a gulp of milk–one of THE most satisfying experiences you’ll EVER get)…and ladling it into mugs and sitting down to drink it, at which point you’ve calmed yourself enough to really enjoy it. Ahhh. Heaven.
What I’ve done is developed a sort of recipe for this sort of hot chocolate. Not that I actually use one. Every time, I sort of improvise based on this. If I feel like it’s lacking in flavor, I add some extra vanilla. If I want it to be richer, I add more chocolate (you can never have too much, right?). If I want a sweeter taste, sugar. Try this, really! It’ll serve about 3-4 depending on how much people want.
Milk. I know there’s this whole thing about how “whole milk tastes oh so much better than lowly skim or lactose free or one-two percent” but I’ve tried all of the mentioned and I really don’t see a difference. So don’t despair if you’re lacking whole milk. Go for it and IMPROVISE. Improvising is truly the key to a successful cup of hot chocolate.
You’ll need about 3 to 3 and a half cups of milk depending on how milky you want it to be. I’d go for 3 and a half. Even this may not seem like very much, but it’s more than enough once you add the chocolate and sugar and…everything else.
One and a half to two tablespoons of sugar. Same deal. Improvise based on what your impression is and what taste you’re going for.
Two cups of chocolate chips. Semisweet or bittersweet is fine. I’ve used milk chocolate before, and frankly I don’t like it nearly as much. Maybe this is simply because I’ve never been a milk chocolate person, but I feel like it’s sweet enough without the extra intense sweetness of milk chocolate. Also, you don’t want the taste of the chocolate to DOMINATE the taste of the hot chocolate itself. If you’re using bittersweet chocolate, I’d use two and a half tablespoons of sugar rather than two to balance out sweetness.
A generous quarter teaspoon of vanilla. Don’t be shy.
A small but significantly existent pinch of salt.
OPTIONAL: You can also add zest from an orange for a delicious kick, or a half a teaspoon of cinnamon for a little spice. Whipped cream is always good, as are marshmallows.
First, get your milk and put it into a medium sized saucepan. Before turning on the heat, add the chocolate chips. Don’t be afraid of a splash of milk when you plop them in; the simplest solution is to put them in all at once and get it over with. No big deal.
THEN turn on the heat to a bit below medium (definitely on the lower side) and stir. Stir, stir, stir. Stir gently, NEVER rushing, perhaps with a little calming music playing in the background as you enjoy a pleasant (or rainy, which makes it all the cozier) afternoon. This may take only a few minutes or it may take longer, but don’t worry about it. I often lull into this pleasant sort of rhythm as I do so, almost forgetting what I’m doing completely. In a good way.
So. Once the hot chocolate is more or less melted (don’t expect perfection) add the sugar and the pinch of salt and the cinnamon or orange zest if you’ve decided to use one. This really shouldn’t take too long.
Once all this is done, finally add the vanilla. This is one of the most crucial ingredients. It really adds that crucial extra flavor to the hot chocolate. Never never NEVER neglect vanilla.
Ladle the hot chocolate rather messily into mugs and eat at the kitchen table while you read the paper/listen to music/draw/write/try to see the bright side of things/in my case, pretend to do my homework. Enjoy!!
(‘Kay. Hope I haven’t made some drastic mistake in recording this. If I have, please tell me, and if you have any further comments or suggestions, let me know!!)
Hope you’re having a nice Sunday, and try not to let the Sunday Blues get to you. Before long it’ll be Saturday again…