If there is one thing that we can all agree on, a damn good cup of hot chocolate is what can turn a cold, grey, winters day into something more spectacular in just a few moments.
Now, we’re not suggesting that we have one of the finest hot chocolates in Wakefield or West Yorkshire but, we may be getting close… Yes, we’ve really gone about understanding the fine art of a good hot chocolate and what can make an average, out of a sachet experience all the more better.
So what makes the perfect hot chocolate and how can you recreate the experience at home? Here is our mini guide.
Choose the right chocolate
The chocolate part of a hot chocolate makes all the difference, and is well, also the most important element too. There are many cooks and presenters that have gone about trying to find the best ways to make a hot chocolate, and they all begin in the same place as our quest takes us; the decision between a simple milk chocolate, or dare we venture to wilder, more furrowed places and ask for dark and bitter.
Jamie Oliver (who’s he?) says you should go dark, so does some person called Nigel Slater. Both clearly not a fan of all the unnatural sweetness for such large quantities which will surely be drunk. And we would actually agree, if you want sweetness go for something dark and then sweeten yourself.
What kind of dark chocolate I hear you cry? 70% cocoa solids, minimum, you could add some milk chocolate but make sure the quantity doesn’t go over a 2:1 ratio, whatever you don.
Milk or Cream, the debate that never was
A signature of a good hot chocolate is of course the butteryness (that’s a word) of the flavours that come together, so the real question has to be, do we go for milk or cream? It is a debate that has never existed and probably for good reason, whilst we love the thought of being able to make the hot chocolate with cream, we think it’s best with full fat milk and then adding a splash at the end to make it all that more luxurious…
If you are going to adorn your hot chocolate (see a little further down) you may want to avoid doing that, but heed this advice well, you get more flavour profile from the chocolate rather than a cream solution.
What about spices?
Yes, that’s right spices. Well people like to come into the store and ask for all sorts but spices in hot chocolate are no new thing. Look at Mexico where spices are used to flavour all sorts of cocoa based dishes and not forgetting their dipping sauces for dishes like churros!
We say, ground nutmeg is nice, cinnamon is perfect but also, if you wanted to be adventurous, a tiny bit of hot paprika also works wonders. Don’t forget you could infuse the milk with vanilla before making the hot chocolate or even with mint to get, well, a mint hot chocolate.
Any secret tips for the perfect hot chocolate?
Yes, a pinch of salt. It does wonders, especially with darker chocolate varieties! If you wanted to make a slightly boozy hot chocolate, we would advise some amaretto too. It really is a secret weapon in getting something truly special made.
The method to make a hot chocolate is actually simple and shouldn’t be overthought. The recommended way of making a silkier smoother hot chocolate is to go about with some panache. When you’re doing this at home, be sure to whole hog with the chocolate too.
Felicity Cloake, the guardian food and drink writer and someone we call, a legend uses the following recipe and method;
450ml whole milk
70g 70% cocoa chocolate, finely chopped or grated
30g good-quality milk chocolate, finely chopped or grated
75ml single cream
Scant ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Heat the milk and when it is warm add your spices, if you’re going to use them. Take the chocolate you are going to use, chop it up and add some of the milk (heated to boiling) to make a fine paste. Slowly, and with a whisk, pour in the remaining quantity of milk and beat together (add a splash of amaretto here). If you want to thicken it up, put back into the pan and gently stir on a medium heat for a few minutes.
Garnish your hot chocolate with double cream or marshmallows or even, both!