Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chile-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate

Happy New Year!  Well, technically it’s January 4th, so allow me to wish you a Happy 1/4/14!  I really like the symmetry of that number and I’ve been writing it all day in as many forms as I can. I’m happy to be home at Kitchen Fiddler again, as it’s been an extremely eventful three months since my last entry here, but that will be for another post. I’ve just come off an intense round of CocoaRoar truffles so you’d think I’d be sick of chocolate by now, but astonishingly, I’m not.  In fact, I’m here to talk about hot chocolate—Chile-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate, to be exact.

The new year promptly started off with several inches of snow, and I was glad to hibernate at home those two days.  There is nothing more comforting than being safely tucked inside during a snowstorm, wrapped in a blanket while watching favorite movies and drinking huge mugs of steaming hot chocolate topped with floating islands of whipped cream.  When that hot chocolate has an extra kick from the spicy addition of chile powder and the whipped cream is flecked with cinnamon, so much the better.

I rarely find myself making regular B-flat hot chocolate.  I almost always doctor it up in some way, either by spiking it with various liqueurs or infusing the whipped cream with flavors beyond the norm.  Sometimes I transpose my favorite truffle flavors to hot chocolate form, as in my Cardamom Hot Chocolate with Rose-infused Whipped Cream.  Tonight’s chile-cinnamon hot chocolate is also a riff on my popular spicy truffle, one I haven’t made in a while but have been craving recently.

I love using velvety dark Valrhona cocoa powder, and it marries beautifully with the smokiness of the chipotle chile powder and the round sweetness of the cinnamon.  That may be enough spice for you, but some like it hot—including me—so I add a pinch of ancho chile to give it an extra kick.  And if you think it’s too spicy?  Add another dollop of whipped cream.  That’ll cool your palate right down.

This recipe technically serves four, but if your name is Louise and you’re happily bundled up inside during a January snowstorm while watching the first two parts of “The Godfather” trilogy, this serves one.  Enjoy part of the batch during the first movie, and finish the hot chocolate during the sequel!

One Year Ago:  Chipotle Chilaquiles
Two Years Ago:  Butterscotch Pots de Creme
Four Years Ago:  Winter Fruit Salad
Five Years Ago:  Cranberry Ginger Pecan Muffins

There are different schools of thought on hot chocolate, whether to use exclusively cocoa powder or to use chopped chocolate for the heady brew.  I use both, and I appreciate the depth that the bittersweet chocolate adds to the hot cocoa.  I’ll be honest: I double the amount of whipped cream when I make this because I just love fresh whipped cream.  But you may be a bit more moderate than I am, so I’ve included a slightly more modest recipe here.  I like the complexity of smoky chipotle and fiery ancho chile powders for this, but if you don’t have those on hand, you can certainly substitute regular chili powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper for this. 

For the spiced hot chocolate:
4 cups milk (use whatever kind you like—I usually use 2% so I can justify the extra whipped cream on top!)
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
A pinch or two of ancho chile powder (if you like a real kick)
A big pinch of salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the whipped cream:
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat, just until it simmers.  As the milk is heating, combine the cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon, chile powders and salt in a small bowl.  Add a half-cup of the hot milk to the cocoa-spice mixture, stirring well to form a chocolaty paste.  Whisk this chocolate mixture back into the simmering milk, then add the chopped bittersweet chocolate to the saucepan.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly, just until the bittersweet chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Do not let it boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

Meanwhile, combine the whipping cream, powdered sugar and cinnamon in a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Use an electric mixer to beat the cream to soft-to-medium peaks.  (I like my whipped cream a little firmer so the peaks hold their shape a bit and don’t immediately melt into the hot chocolate.) 

Ladle the hot chocolate into cups and serve with generous dollops of whipped cream.  Makes 4 cups--you can decide for yourself how many that serves!

No comments: