Hot chocolate season is here. Sure, it's warm by midday, but the mornings and evenings are what dictate this particular culinary season, and it's cool enough now that a cuppa cocoa is called for.
Only not, please, actual cocoa. Jump with me and let's talk more about this...
Without sounding extreme, cocoa is a namby-pamby nursery-quality drink, fit for little children who don't know better yet and with only animal crackers as a suitable pairing.
Hot chocolate is something different, totally deserving of the Latin name given to its tree of origin, theobroma.
Cocoa is made from powder. Powder has no fat in it to speak of. Hot chocolate is made from bars of chocolate, full of cocoa butter.
Remember the first rule of good eating? Fat=flavor.
So rejoice that 1) real hot chocolate (known in the U.S., unfortunately, as "European style") is becoming more and more available in SLC and surrounding areas, and 2) real hot chocolate is easy to make at home, especially considering the amazingly wide selection of world class chocolate available here. (Caputo's carries more than 350 kinds.)
An example of the difference in richness between cocoa and hot chocolate: cocoa is traditionally served in wide handled cups holding 8 ounces or so. Hot chocolate is traditionally served in a demitasse like cup, holding no more than 4 ounces. Because really, that's all you can hold.
Les Madeleines serves several kinds of hot chocolate, using Valrhona chocolate and different add-ins. The current fave is peanut butter; the pb gives the drink a heft that makes it taste nutritious, especially in the morning.
And now Caputo's is giving a jump start (like they did Creminelli's now world-famous salumi) to Alexandra Ziegenmeier's little enterprise called Chocolate + Cream, which sells its hot chocolate mixtures to restaurants.
Today and all the rest of the week, C+C will be sampling their hot chocolate at the Broadway store, and I just got home from a tasting. There are 3 kinds—the basic, Chocolate + Cream, using milk chocolate, with a slightly salty, almond-like undertone to it;
Chocolate + Caramel, made with Valrhona Caramello and a tiny bit of lemon and espresso; Mayan, made with dark chocolate and habanero.
They're kept at a steady 160 degrees in a nifty machine that keeps the chocolate moving so a skin never forms on top.
Chocolate + Cream plans to start selling its hot chocolate at Caputo's next week—a 4-ounce serving, topped with whipped cream, will sell for somewhere between $4 and $5.
Meanwhile, next door, Bruges's winter menu includes Belgian hot chocolate. Clearly, it's time for a taste test.
Like I said, though, hot chocolate is easy to make at home, where you can not only have seconds for free, but add a slug of Kahlua or Amaretto. In the evening, I mean. Here's how I make it. MM's Hot Chocolate
2 cups whole milk (we drink skim, so I use that and add 3 Tbsp.of my cat's cream) 4 oz Green & Black organic baking chocolate (72% cocoa with extra cocoa butter) 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 teaspoons sugar 1 little pinch salt Stir together milk, vanilla, sugar and salt in saucepan till mixed. Break the chocolate into pieces and add to milk. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted. At this point, you'll still see tiny flecks of chocolate in the milk. Remove mixture from heat and whisk briskly until milk gets foamy and flecks are gone. Put back on burner and heat. DO NOT BOIL. Pour into cups and garnish with whipped cream, marshmallows or nothing.