12.12.2015

Haute Chocolate

As you know, I have never had either coffee or tea in my life, a fact that I am confident many of you have repressed.

To many friends, it seems an impossibility. How could you not drink coffee? Tea? Is it my religion, they ask? An allergy?

Neither of the above. My parents could not get me to drink milk, so they disguised it as hot chocolate, thus addicting me to this elixir for life.

To this day - and I see no changes in my future - I have cocoa every morning of the year. People find this odd, and state confidently that cocoa is a winter beverage. "C'mon!" I protest, "You drink hot coffee or scalding tea all year long!" It's different, they say. But it's not.

I drink an entire café-au-lait bowlful to start each day. It is my breakfast - full of protein and chocolate happiness. It keeps me sated until noon, unless someone asks me if I want a pastry, and then, of course, all bets are off.

Cocoa and hot chocolate are very different beverages. Cocoa is less sweet and made from cocoa powder, a little sugar, and milk - I use skim or 1%. Hot chocolate, by contrast, is best made using the highest-quality bittersweet chocolate available, melted lovingly into milk or cream. It can be made from skim milk, too, but why would you?

I tend to save hot chocolate for special occasions, and use it more as a dessert. Its richness calls for smaller amounts - doses, almost. Demitasse cups are the perfect size.

Today's recipe is, to me, the most exquisite of all hot chocolates. It is adapted from one I found in Saveur magazine, and have tinkered with for almost 20 years. Markipedia was fascinated by the geography of the ingredient list. I misread the caption and thought the source was South American, to which Mark immediately said, "No, this has to be Spanish Baroque." He was right. (It is hard living with an encyclopedia.) The entire sprawling Spanish empire is found in this little cup: chocolate, chile and vanilla from Central America, saffron from the Mediterranean, milk and roses from Eurasia, cinnamon and sugar from Southeast Asia.

He’s insisted I keep my version of this recipe a secret for twenty years, but as it has published origins, it is time to share it with all my friends. It makes a great flavor base for panna cotta, or homemade truffles. Those concepts are MY addition to the culinary world.

And it is never too soon to plan for Valentine’s Day, is it?

Bottoms up, and pinkies out!

~ David

Spanish Baroque Hot Chocolate
adapted from Saveur Magazine

3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cinnamon sticks
1 chile de árbol
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/8 ounce dried culinary rose buds
pinch salt
4 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate - about 70% cacao

Place the milk in a medium saucepan, and add the cinnamon, chile, vanilla bean, saffron, rose buds, and salt. Over medium heat, bring almost to a boil, then remove from the heat, cover, and let steep 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, break chocolate into small pieces and place in another medium saucepan, preferably one with a good lip that pours easily. Strain the milk into the pan with the chocolate, and place over medium-low heat, whisking, until the mixture is hot.

Pour into small demitasse or tea cups, and serve with immediately.

Serves 4.

Notes on the china: The chocolate pot is English and was a gift from our friend Sue, and the red and gold demitasse cups, from John, hail from Bavaria. The rest, with the exception of the Monet blue and yellow plate (Limoges), are all saucers from a collection of beautiful teacups (English and Bavarian) that came from the estate of our friends' Lynn & Lee's Aunt Mary. The pitcher with the parrots (German) was a rare impulse purchase by Markipedia. 


34 comments:

  1. A feast for the eyes AND the tummy. Can't wait to try this. On a (sort of) related note, have you ever tried the Mexican versions of hot chocolatl? I remember my 7th grade social studies student teacher bringing empanadas and this very thick, sweet hot beverage to our class that his wife made for us. I think the base was sweetened condensed milk, but I believe the original was maiz-based?
    Thanks, as always, for your inspiration.

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    1. Thanks for such a great comment! Yes, I love Mexican hot chocolate, although have never made it with sweetened condensed milk - as what we can buy in the stores is already very sweet. If you enjoyed that, you will love this! Now I want to make pumpkin empanadas to eat with this while I sip it!

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  2. How incredibly dainty! A raised pinky, for sure. This sounds so delicious!

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    1. Oh, the pinkies around here are raise, for sure! It is delicious, John - and a little goes a long way!

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  3. WOW, this looks amazing! I've never seen such a complex and rich 'haute' chocolate.... lucky me I have all the ingredients except for the chile which should be easy to find. I chuckled at Markipedia and pinkies out... love it. can't wait to try this ! Happy holidays David! :)

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    1. Ahu, you of all my readers will love this! Please try it am give a report backs,

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  4. Decadent! As you write, more of a dessert than a beverage! So beautifully photographed and sounds so very good. "The cook and His Encyclopedia" is an intriguing title for a memoir!

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    1. I love The Cook and His Encyclopedia for the title of our book, Susan! And I know that you love this hot chocolate recipe, too!

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    2. I was reading through these comments again, poking around, and I saw "The Cook and His Encyclopedia" and thought what a cool title...go for it!

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  5. Having grown up on Swiss Miss I have an aversion to Hot Chocolate that would surely be cured by this recipe. GREG

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    1. Greg - this will make you forget about that Swiss Miss, whoever she is, and it might just cure your aversion completely.

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    2. That Swiss Miss is pretty cheap and easy. I think I prefer the elegance and exotic nature of your recipe. :)

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    3. I know I prefer the exotic version, Matthew!

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  6. I drink cocoa every morning too! I will think of you from now on. Your china is lovely and the photos, as always, exquisite.

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    1. Jean - I am so glad to know there is another daily cocoa drinker out there! Thanks for your kind comment about the photos. It was a fun post to shoot!

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  7. I really admire you for drinking chocolate every morning! While I love velvety hot chocolate it has never occurred to me that I could drink it every morning if I wanted. Many years ago I found a recipe for Castilian chocolate in a sort of "natural foods" cookbook. It had a little cornstarch to make it thicker. It really seemed more like a chocolate pudding than hot chocolate.
    The book said this, "A cup of this chocolate and some gossip will take the chill off any winter day." Imagine that! I think I'll have a hot chocolate right now.
    Your collection of china saucers is very pretty.

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    1. I love that quote from the book, Caterina! I agree with you - I am not fond of the cornstarch in cocoa to thicken it. I have had that in Italy, as well, and much prefer to drink my cocoa rather than eat it with a spoon. However, there are always exceptions - the hot chocolate (as opposed to cocoa) in Paris is thick and velvety, made with cream and chocolate. It is worth trying!

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  8. This sounds so wonderful, I will gladly try it and report back! Beautiful pictures! Bottoms up and pinkies out, indeed!! :)

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    1. Thanks, Marcelle - I will look forward to your report!

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  9. Ok, so I knew you didn't drink tea or coffee, but I never knew you have never tried them!! Now, that is impressive. I don't judge btw :) Hot cocoa and hot chocolate are all ok in my book.
    Like you drank cocoa as a child to sneak in milk, mine was coffee. It was coffee flavoured milk that got me. At school we had a very milky au lait and I have been hooked ever since. My mother also mixed a bunch of chocolate in my milk. I don't like milk.
    This hot chocolate is gorgeous. The colour, the flavours and the cups too, all beautiful.

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    1. Thanks, Nazneen - both for your nice comment and for not judging! :) The smell of coffee and tea are just not what my nose wants, and my tastebuds listen to the nose!

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  10. I love your china, your taste in chocolate and YOU!
    Happy holidays, my sweet friend! xoxoox

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  11. This sounds absolutely delicious on so many levels. The vanilla, the cinnamon, and the saffron! Oh my! LOVE all of your beautiful China, too! XO

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    1. I knew people would like this post! Thanks, Valentina!

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  12. Your dishes are gorgeous! Now I'm going to have to start keeping my eyes open! I have had spicy chocolate bars that were delicious, so why not cocoa. (I even have Thai chili peppers on a potted plant now)

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    1. The pepper is the least interesting part of this amazing hot chocolate - you really should give it a whirl, Inger!

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  13. What an indulgent and delicious way to start your day, especially in one of your beautiful cups.

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    1. Thanks, Karen! It's nice at any time of the day!

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  14. I don't find it surprising that you don't drink tea or coffee in the morning, but I do find it surprising that you have never had either in your whole life. Never even tasted them? Aren't you curious as to how they might taste? In any case, I am sure your body doesn't miss the caffeine...

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    1. You know, Fiona, if you get coffee or tea near my nose, the smell is so awful - I love the smell of it brewing, but... And, as to caffeine, I have almost none - no sodas, etc. I am very susceptible to it, and I am already a Type A personality. Caffeine would not be a good addition to my ethos!

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