We need to talk about this red wine hot chocolate trend. It all started last year with a post in Yeah... ImmaEatThat. "You eat chocolate with wine," they posit, "so why not put chocolate in wine?" The buzz hit again this month and yesterday The New York Times covered the trend, linking back to every notable bit of coverage — they're the paper of record, after all. So I decided to find out, once and for all, what the fuss is all about.
It did not turn out the way I expected.
Now, my expectations weren't especially high to begin with. Unlike seemingly every other food writer on the planet, I don't love the combination of wine with chocolate. I love each separately, but I think the pairing is overrated. You know what's great with chocolate? A big glass of milk. But that's why we have hot chocolate.
Anyway, I followed what seems to be the most popular method for making red wine hot chocolate.
You guys, my red wine hot chocolate totally curdled.
Of course it did, because that's what happens when you add an acid to hot dairy. Why is no one else talking about this? I've made ricotta in a similar way. Basically, you heat milk and cream, add lemon juice, stir until it curdles, and then strain. Lemon juice is at about a 2 on the pH scale, while red wine ranges from 2.5 to 4.5.
Maybe my wine was especially acidic. Maybe my milk got too hot. But who wants lukewarm hot chocolate? Maybe I should have heated the wine too. Maybe I'm just an evil witch who makes hot chocolate curdle.
I reached out to pastry chef, cookbook author and SheKnows contributor Allison Robicelli for her advice. "Yeah, that's a terrible recipe," she said. Sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk would be better choices if you want to avoid curdling. But she would take a completely different approach. "You're better off making mulled wine with Dutch processed cocoa." There's an idea worth exploring over the holidays.
I found another approach on Mother Nature Network, the only source that admits curdling is an issue. They combine cocoa and sweetener with wine over heat first, then slowly add the milk to avoid curdling.
So there you go. In my opinion, once I spooned out the curds the combination didn't even taste that good. If you want boozy hot chocolate, I think you're better off with a small amount of liqueur or cognac, maybe a bit of whiskey. But if you're determined to try the red wine trend, I highly recommend Mother Nature Network's approach. Let us know if it works for you and if you think the combination really is all that.
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