Spanish Hot Chocolate - For Sipping or Dipping
A Taste of History
Following our snow day last Thursday, it got cold. Cold for Portland, that is. The roads cleared and life got back to normal but snow lingered in the back yard and the air stayed fresh and chilly. My craving for Hot Chocolate lingered too.
I have always loved the idea of Hot Chocolate. It's history is rich with intrigue and nuance. Just learning about it's origins is an adventure involving ancient Mayans, Aztec warriors and finally Spanish Conquistadores. It was the Spanish who introduced it to Europe along with intriguing traditions, lore and dedicated vessels gleaned from the Aztecs themselves.
Chocolate was enjoyed as a drink long before it became a popular confection. Throughout its history it has been mixed with exotic ingredients and often prepared with and offered in special serving pieces. Reading about it in Carole Bloom's "All About Chocolate" I was once again drawn into its romantic appeal. I wanted to experience the history first hand and sample a thick rich cup of Hot Chocolate, Spanish style.
A Thicker Hot Chocolate
I've tasted Spiced Hot Chocolate made with cloves, cinnamon and vanilla. What I hoped for this time was to find a recipe for a thicker version of Hot Chocolate that would be satisfying in small portions without being overwhelmingly intense.
With that criteria in mind I looked through recipe after recipe. For some reason I was surprised to find the consistent means of achieving that thick cup of chocolate I had in mind was to add cornstartch. At first I thought, "Ick!" But when I finally conceded that the only other option for achieving a really thick cup of chocolate amounted to drinking a small cup of ganache before it had set, I relented. I would give the cornstarch a try. After sampling this recipe I am converted. Cornstarch, in moderation, can be a good thing.
This Hot Chocolate qualifies as dessert in my book. Sip it slowly over lingering conversation at the conclusion of a special meal. Serve it with small cookies if you like. Or for a family friendly treat try it S'more Style. Serve small cups of Spanish Hot Chocolate topped with mini marshmallows and served with graham crackers for dipping. It makes a wonderful treat on a cold afternoon.
Spanish Hot Chocolate
adapted from a recipe at about.com
Makes about 3 demitasse sized servings. Easily doubled.
1 cup whole milk
½ to 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cornstarch
strip of orange peel, optional
pinch of espresso powder, optional
2 oz good quality chocolate, chopped (or bittersweet chocolate chips)
sweetened whipped cream
pinch of cinnamon or ground chile pepper, for garnish
In a small saucepan, whisk together the milk, brown sugar and cornstarch. Add the orange peel, if desired.
Over low heat bring milk to a simmer stirring constantly.
Remove from heat. Remove orange peel if applicable.
Add espresso powder, if desired. Whisk in chocolate until melted.
Return to heat and bring back to a low boil, stirring constantly.
Pour mixture into espresso cups.
For dessert: top with whipped cream and a pinch of spice. Serve with sliced ripe pear, peaches or raspberries or with an assortment of bite sized cookies
For a family friendly treat: top with miniature marshmallows and serve with graham cracker sections....