Cold winter days beg for a steaming mug of rich hot chocolate, ideal for warming chilled hands. Chocolate experts at Guittard have perfected this sweet ground cocoa blend, but other cultures have their own unique versions as well. For a kick of spice, try the first version from Mexico, made from their traditional chocolate tablets. Sip the second recipe, which comes from Italy, after dinner — it’s hearty enough to stand in for dessert.
Spicy Hot Chocolate
In Mexico, chocolate tablets are put into a clay pot with hot milk. A carved wooden molinillo is rapidly twirled to create a thick layer of foam, then the chocolate is poured into bowls or cups. The tablets can be found in well-stocked markets.
4 cups milk or water
2 chocolate tablets, about 1/4 pound total weight, broken into small pieces
1 vanilla bean (0ptional)
In a saucepan over low heat, warm 1 cup of the milk. Add the chocolate tablets and stir with a wooden spoon until melted. Add the remaining 3 cups milk and the vanilla bean, if using, and let simmer for several minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat. Lift out the vanilla bean and save for another use. Using a whisk, beat the chocolate milk vigorously until a thick layer of foam covers the surface. Pour into cups, distributing the foam evenly. Serve at once. Serves 4.
Florentine hot chocolate is so decadently dense that one could easily believe it was nothing but the finest melted dark chocolate. Arrowroot, a thickener similar to cornstarch but with a more neutral flavor, is the secret to its thickness.
For the hot chocolate:
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp. arrowroot
1/2 cup cold water
For the whipped cream:
3/4 cup heavy cream, well chilled
1 1/2 tsp. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
To make the hot chocolate, in a heavy saucepan, whisk together the cocoa powder and granulated sugar. Place over low heat and vigorously stir in 1/2 cup of the milk, a few tablespoons at a time. When the mixture is smooth, stir in the remaining 2 1/2 cups milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool, about 5 minutes.
Return the hot chocolate to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a small bowl, dissolve the arrowroot in the cold water. Pour into the hot chocolate. Bring to a boil over medium heat one final time, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat.
To make the whipped cream, in a bowl, combine the cream and confectioners’ sugar. Using a wire whisk or an electric mixer, beat until the cream is light and fluffy and holds soft peaks, about 4 minutes.
Pour the hot chocolate into cups, top with the whipped cream and serve at once. Serves 6.