Fred Thompson’s book, “Hot Chocolate” (Harvard Common Press, $12.95), has a prominent place on my cookbook shelf, though I’m interested in this topic only a few months out of the year.
Right on cue, cold temps are promised this week as December begins. Meaning Thompson’s book is officially off my shelf and presenting me with temptations. These include Italian Hot Chocolate with Orange Whipped Cream or the recipe for Ancient Aztec Cacahuatl, made with a vanilla bean and a fiery dose of pure ancho chile powder.
If you want to make classic American Hot Chocolate, his recipe calls for Scharffen Berger cocoa powder and chopped, 70- to 75-percent cacao, bittersweet chocolate.
Hot chocolate is great with cookies, but another perfect accompaniment is dark, moist gingerbread. This isn’t the crunchy cookie. It’s dark, cake-y and delicious. We enjoyed this treat when our Thanksgiving hosts, Pam and Cecil Flentge, sent some home with us at the end of the evening to have for breakfast. I’m thinking Emily’s Gingerbread, from M.F.K. Fisher’s book, “How to Cook a Wolf,” would also be very welcome on Christmas morning and make good Yuletide gifts for friends, too.
[amazon-product]1558322906[/amazon-product]Here, from “Hot Chocolate,” are a few tips for making a good, hot cup of chocolate:
- True chocolate, what you find in chocolate bars or chips with a high content of cacao, will give you a much richer “centerpiece” for hot chocolate than does cocoa powder.
- To make the best hot chocolate, keep on hand a good chef’s knife for slicing into bars of chocolate (try to shave chocolate rather than chop, as it will melt better). Also, a good balloon whisk and a double boiler for melting are useful.
- Using water instead of milk to make hot chocolate will give you the most intense chocolate flavor. Using low-fat milk is a good choice if you want just a bit of creaminess. If you like cream, make it that way — it just depends on how intense you want the chocolate flavor to come through.
- If intense chocolate taste is your goal, use the higher-end, 70-percent cacao chocolates.