Thursday, January 24, 2008

How to Make Hot Chocolate

How to Make Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate can be a delicious and comforting beverage, especially during cold winter months. If chilled, however, you'll have a refreshing drink or possibly a dessert depending on how you dress it up.

But hot chocolate should not to be confused with hot cocoa. The former is made with actual chocolate and is a richer, much more substantial beverage. The latter is produced from cocoa powder or from a manufactured product containing cocoa powder such as hot cocoa mixes available at grocery stores.

This article concentrates on hot chocolate and will serve as a guideline as to how you can prepare it. Experiment with your own recipes and see what you can create. The possibilities are endless!

[edit] Ingredients

* Chocolate
* Milk or water
* Flavorings, such as herbs, spices, liqueur, mint etc.

Pinch of salt

[edit] Steps

1. Obtain some good quality chocolate. This can be milk, dark, or even white chocolate, depending on your preferences and flavors you wish to add.

* If you have some unsweetened chocolate lying around, hot chocolate is a great way to use it up. Simply add sugar to sweeten it.
Chop the chocolate finely on a clean cutting board or counter. One of the easiest ways to chop the chocolate is to use a serrated knife. Make sure the cutting surface has not been exposed to onions or other strong smelling foods. Residual odors can contaminate the chocolate and impart undesirable flavors.

The amount of chocolate you use depends on how strong and rich you want the beverage to be. A good starting point is 25g of chocolate per cup of liquid. If you need more chocolate, simply add it.
Turn the stove top to a medium-low or low setting. Pour milk or water into the pot and gently add the chopped chocolate.
* An alternative to direct heat is to double boil. If you choose to double boil, place a small pot of water on high heat and put a metal bowl on top. Add the chocolate and stir until fully melted turning the heat down some once the water has reached boiling point. Then add cream at 1:1 to the chocolate and stir, effectively making a ganache. The ganache will be added to your mug of hot milk when finished. Add any flavorings suggested below to the ganache while stirring in the cream. (Using the double boil method should make it more difficult to burn your chocolately goodness, but be careful with the bowl as it will get hot!)
* Some people prefer milk for a richer flavor, while others favor water. The choice here is yours, but whatever you use, make sure each serving of hot chocolate is at least 4oz (120ml) for a richer beverage and at most 8oz (240ml) for a thinner beverage.
* This is the point where you can add liqueur if you wish. Doing so now will burn off some of the alcohol and mellow out the flavor.
* Spices and other flavorings can be added here as well. To increase their flavor presence in the hot chocolate, they will need the opportunity to steep for a longer period of time. However, if you want a subtler, less pronounced flavor, hold off for now.
Stir continuously with a whisk until the liquid and chocolate combine completely. Just when you think the two are incorporated, you might notice black flecks scattered in the chocolaty matrix. These flecks are bits of unmelted chocolate, so you should continue to stir until they disappear.
* Sometimes, whisking vigorously is necessary to dissolve unmelted chocolate completely.
* If the mixture becomes too hot, or you feel that it might burn, remove pot from the heat and continue to stir, allowing the temperature to reduce. Put pot back on heat once the mixture has cooled.
Add desired flavorings once you have a fully emulsified liquid in the pot. Liqueur can also be added, but if you do so now, you might find the flavor too strong because the alcohol will not have had a chance to evaporate.
6. Turn off the heat and pour in cups immediately afterwards. Garnish with whatever you wish, such as mint leaves, cinnamon sticks, or whipped cream.
7. Enjoy! And have fun with trying out all sorts of variations!

[edit] Tips

* The pinch of salt makes the chocolate taste more like chocolate!
* The richness of your hot chocolate will usually determine how much you will drink or serve to others. Generally, a richer beverage should be served in 4oz cups such as an espresso cup due to the density of the beverage. A thinner, less chocolaty beverage can be served in more liberal portions, such as coffee cups or mugs.
* The cocoa content of the chocolate will contribute a lot to the flavor and intensity of the beverage. For example, hot chocolate made with 85% chocolate will be strong and not as sweet as most people are familiar with. To balance this out, add sugar, sweeter chocolate, or even milk chocolate for a more rounded flavor.
* Combine different chocolates of various origins, percentages, and even types, such as mixing milk with dark. You can even use flavored bars.
* Feel free to add a tablespoon or two of cream for added richness.
* A pinch of cornstarch can help thicken the chocolate, if you prefer a thicker texture. Make sure to sift it in so that your hot chocolate doesn't end up grainy.
* Store unused portions in the refrigerator to enjoy at another time. Or, refrigerate an entire batch for a cold, refreshing treat. Just shake it to redistribute the chocolate, as it will settle and separate.
* Experiment with different herbs and spices, such as basil, fennel, thyme, nutmeg, and ginger. Combine herbs with fruits for added interest. Cinnamon is a great addition!
* Play around with when to add the flavorings. Sometimes, certain herbs and spices will need to "steep" while you prepare the hot chocolate, so their flavor can be fully extracted. Other times, however, you can add them towards the end of the process. See what works for you.
* Adding malt gives hot chocolate a malted-milk-balls taste.
* Many people enjoy adding marshmallows to their chocolate; they give it the creamy layer you see in some pictures.

[edit] Warnings

* When stirring the hot chocolate in the pot, use only a wire whisk and nothing else. A spoon will not blend the chocolate and liquid thoroughly, and you'll end up with a grainy beverage.
* Knives are of course sharp, and one should be careful while cutting the chocolate.
* Don't leave the stove unattended because milk and chocolate can burn easily.

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