Saturday, September 27, 2008

Everything's Coming Up Roses (and Cardamom!)

How does hot chocolate with cardamom sound to you? Especially when it is topped with rose-scented whipped cream??? I know, I’m a total hussy for even suggesting it, but this is really too good to keep to myself. I know many of you were probably surprised that my opening recipe of the Kitchen Fiddler blog was not a chocolate one, but I have a very lovely one to share with you tonight, one which provides a nice bridge from yesterday’s post about cardamom-infused coffee.

This recipe is in honor of another cardamom-loving friend, Carol, whose birthday is today. I am smiling to think of how Carol’s face lit up earlier this year when I told her that I was going to make a cardamom truffle as part of my CocoaRoar Spring Truffle Collection, and we had some extremely animated phone conversations this summer over our discovery and thorough giggly enjoyment of the Adirondack Creamery Kulfi-Pistachio Cardamom ice cream.

(If you are a cardamom lover and haven’t tried this ice cream yet, I urge you to track this down as soon as possible. I know that Whole Foods and Fairway carry it, as do both of the Westside Market stores on the Upper West Side, among others. This ice cream is nothing short of delightful and will definitely prompt you to call a good friend and share your cardamom joy. Happy birthday Carol!)

I love hot chocolate infused with various spices, especially cardamom. Cardamom and rose are a gorgeous combination and made even more so when chocolate is added to the equation. Naturally my cardamom hot chocolate begged to be topped with rose-scented whipped cream.

I’ve based this recipe on the Rich Hot Chocolate recipe from Alice Medrich’s masterful chocolate book, Bittersweet. This book has become my chocolate bible over the past year, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly to anyone looking for a great book on chocolate desserts. Her passion for the subject is palpable, and her understanding of my favorite legal substance is comprehensive, to say the least.

This particular hot chocolate recipe is made with bittersweet chocolate and a combination of water and milk, instead of the more typical hot cocoa recipe which uses cocoa powder mixed with sugar and milk. I think the chocolate flavor is more pronounced when the drink is made with water and milk instead of using all milk (or milk and cream for that matter). An excessive amount of dairy tends to mute the chocolate-ness of the drink, and I would prefer to have my dairy in the form of a luscious dollop (or three) of whipped cream on the top of the rich liquid chocolate.

I used a combination of Valrhona 71% and Scharffenberger Semisweet chocolates when I made this the other night, as that’s what I had on hand. I used my little cappuccino milk foamer to froth up the hot chocolate, which immediately conjured up visions of the waterfall-churned chocolate river in “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory”.

I have this special rose petal sugar that I used for the whipped cream, but you can easily make this by using regular granulated or powdered sugar and rosewater, which is available in most specialty food shops.

Rich Hot Chocolate
Adapted from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich

3.5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ cup boiling water
½ teaspoon ground cardamom, or to taste
¾ cup milk
1/3 cup heavy cream (use more if you want to be really decadent!)
1 to 2 teaspoons rosewater, or to taste
1 tablespoon powdered sugar, or to taste

Place the chocolate in a small saucepan. Pour about half of the boiling water over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in the cardamom, then add the rest of the boiling water and milk. Heat over medium heat, whisking continuously, until hot but nowhere near boiling. Pour the hot chocolate into cups.

Place the heavy cream, rosewater and powdered sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl. Use a handheld mixer to whip the cream until it forms soft billowy peaks. (Alternately, you can whip the cream by hand using a balloon whisk. It might take a few more minutes, but it’s kind of satisfying to whip it by hand!) Taste the whipped cream for sweetness and rose-flavor, and adjust accordingly. You might want just a hint of rose, or perhaps you like a more pronounced rose flavor.

Top each cup of hot chocolate with a generous dollop of rose whipped cream.

This recipe makes 2 to 4 servings, depending on how big the serving cups are. (However, if your name is Louise and you’re exhausted after playing the violin all day AND you’re having a major chocolate craving, it actually makes ONE really large serving. True confession!)

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