Casual Recipe for Serious Hot Chocolate

by Kay Baumhefner

To Warm Your Hands, Heart and Soul —

Looking for inspiration? When it comes to hot chocolate (and so many other delights), I first found mine decades ago in a Paris café, and then more recently had it confirmed in Biarritz, the birthplace of modern chocolate, where this photo was taken. The recipe below is the version I had created in response here at home in California, and all these years later, it remains a house favorite.

Cup of hot chocolate.

But no matter where you are in La Belle France, chocolat chaud never shows up just as warm milk merely flavored with a little sweetened cocoa. No, it’s a serious indulgence that invites you to dive deep into the essence of this luxuriously noble bean. So why not treat yourself to the real deal? And then sit back to savor each sip as you watch the lights come on — both inside, out, and all around. Mmmmm…

Casual Recipe for Serious Hot Chocolate

You’ll Need [amounts per serving]

For the Chocolate Base …

  • unsweetened cocoa powder [2 Tb.]
  • granulated sugar [2 Tb.]
  • boiling water [2 Tb.]
  • non-fat milk [1/2 cup]
  • vanilla extract [1/4 tsp.]

For the Topping …

  • heavy cream [2 Tb.]
  • granulated sugar [1/2 tsp.]
  • vanilla extract [1/8 tsp.]
  • Grand Marnier [1/2 tsp.] (optional)
  • grated bittersweet chocolate [a generous tsp.] 

To Make …

  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, whisk together the base cocoa, sugar and water to dissolve.
  2. Whisk in the milk, and then stir over medium heat until steaming hot, but not boiling.
  3. Reduce to low heat and simmer, stirring for a few minutes more to completely harmonize.
  4. Pour into warmed serving cup(s).
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the topping cream, sugar, vanilla, and optional Grand Marnier until soft peaks form. Spoon on top of the hot chocolate.
  6. Sprinkle on the grated chocolate and serve.

and Play with …

It’s critical to use the best quality ingredients, if you want to feel dazzled by the results. I often rely on Valrhona cocoa powder and their 71% Le Noir Amer chocolate to deliver the goods. Non-fat rather than whole milk more fully reveals the chocolate flavor, and you’ll want to make sure to choose fresh, thick, and not ultra-pasteurized heavy cream for the topping. Feel free to tune the topping to suit your own palate by substituting brandy or rum for the optional Grand Marnier. But in citrus season, I always like to further embellish this sumptuous treat with a crunchy, buttery almond cookie and silky strip of candied orange peel on the saucer. So compose whatever brings joy to your own world in this moment.

Wishing you both happy preparing and celebrating!

Cheers and Bon Appétit!  — Kay

Seb with Xmas tree lights.

Originally published November 30, 2016 on Come Home to Cooking.

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