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Hot Chocolate: Thick or Thin?

He said: The One (Who Brings Me Love, Joy, and Happiness) is perhaps the only person I know who can drink finger-singeing mugs of hot chocolate so thick you could upend them over your head and sing the chorus of “I Will Survive” before the contents glug out. Me, I like my hot chocolate thin, layered, subtle, surprising. So give me a Toby mug filled with hot milk and just enough chocolate swirled in to lend body and a hint of heft while still allowing the hormone/antibiotic-free and outrageously expensive whole milk to shine through. Cream? Puh-lease. I don’t take enough Crestor for that. Marshmallows? Absolutely, but not the mini (ack!) ones. One or two big ones—homemade, even better.

I am adamant: I have no desire to turn into a Hoover and vacuum up a mug of chocolate ganache masquerading as a drink. I like my Aztecan delight thin, so I can sip it while gazing out the window early in the morning, like people did in those old General Foods International Coffee commercials.—David Leite

She said: Brown water. That was the hot chocolate of my childhood. It was the instant variety, whichever brand my mom found on sale, and even when she made it with milk, it was wan. Wan and one-dimensional and cloying, it tasted just as I imagined the inside of the foil envelope might taste. Though it smacked of soullessness, it was still a tease, and I fell for it time and again.

So I did the only thing a disillusioned seven-year-old could do: I dreamt up a cocoa with superhero powers. It was sufficiently substantial to stand up to winters in Iowa, bullies on the school bus, and homework for social studies. It was thick, sweetly subdued, captured the fudgy essence of brownies yet hinted at life’s more elegant decadences that were yet to be known to me. It didn’t so much warm my senses as overwhelm them—an omen of far darker vices, those lingering near the 70th percentile, that I’d succumb to some day. The hot chocolate of my musings was like a puddle of melted chocolate with a splash of heavy cream.

I eventually stumbled upon the proper proportions, creating my memory in reverse. Far from thin, not quite superhero thick, and completely worth the wait.—Renee Schettler

Hot Chocolate — To Suit Any Taste
adapted from Francisco J. Migoya | Modern Café | Wiley, 2009 | Makes 10 cups

Note: Migoya sagely explains that “one of the recurring defects that occurs with hot chocolate is that after it sits for extended periods of time (cold or hot), some of the fat tends to separate to the top and some of the chocolate solids sink to the bottom. To resolve this problem, try adding powdered soy lecithin, a natural ingredient.” A simple pinch, added with the salt, will do you.

convert Ingredients
For thin hot chocolate
1 1/2 pounds finest quality dark chocolate (64%), finely chopped
7 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel

For thick hot chocolate
1 pound 14 ounces finest quality dark chocolate (64%), finely chopped
5 1/4 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel

Homemade marshmallows, optional, but entirely, utterly desirable

Method
For thin hot chocolate
1. Scrape the chocolate bits into a high-sided bowl.

2. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it just comes to a boil. Careful, it only takes a few distracted seconds for the milk to boil over.

3. Pour the milk over the chocolate and stir to melt. Buzz the mixture using a handheld immersion blender, add the salt, and continuing buzzing until you obtain a smooth drink.

4. Strain the hot chocolate, if you wish, and pour into warmed mugs. Serve immediately.

For thick hot chocolate
1. Scoop the chocolate bits into a high-sided bowl.

2. Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Be mindful, it only takes a few distracted seconds for the brew to boil over.

3. Pour the milk-cream mixture over the chocolate and stir to melt. Buzz the mixture using a handheld immersion blender, add the salt, and continuing buzzing until you obtain a smooth, luscious drink.

4. Strain the hot chocolate, if you wish, and pour into warmed mugs. Serve immediately.

Fun flavorings
To infuse the hot chocolate with the following flavors, put them in the milk or the milk and cream before boiling. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. Cover the pot and steep the flavors for a few minutes. As a rule, steep the mixture for 5 minutes maximum if steeping teas and 15 to 20 for other flavors. Strain the liquid into another pot using a fine-mesh sieve and return the liquid to a second boil before pouring over the chocolate. The amounts are for the yields in the recipes above.

Earl Grey tea: scant 1 1/2 ounces
Jasmine tea: scant 1 1/2 ounces
Nutmeg: 7 whole nutmegs, crushed
Toasted star anise: 2
Cinnamon sticks: 1
Vanilla pods, split and scraped: 2
Toasted cloves: 1/2 ounce
Pink peppercorns, lightly toasted: 1/2 ounce
Orange zest: 1 ounce
Lemon zest: 3/4 ounce
Lime zest: 1/2 ounce
Crushed candy canes: 6 ounces

Photo © 2009 Ben Fink. All rights reserved.