French-style hot chocolate doubles as a decadent dessert in a mug
An intensely rich and decadent dark hot chocolate recipe, also known as chocolat chaud, is a sophisticated, grown-up version of the winter comfort drink we all loved so much as children. And it's a chocolate lover’s dream in a mug.
If there’s one drink that brings happy childhood memories of winter instantly into focus, it’s hot chocolate. Back in the day, we dumped packets of the instant powder and boiled a pot of water to fill a mug, and if I were being totally honest, I could probably find an old packet or two somewhere in the bottom of my camping bin left over from summer.
There are several grown-up versions of this winter staple that I like to whip up depending on my mood. There’s the basic hot chocolate recipe that I discovered as a young mom, raising three littles, that makes a batch big enough for a family. That one I found on the side of the Hershey’s Cocoa powder tin and consists of milk, sugar and cocoa powder, all simmered together over the stovetop.
Many a homeschooling day we made this in the morning, reading together and cozying up by the fire in winter. A huge step up from instant powder, it’s a legit cup of hot chocolate for sure, especially with some slightly melted mini marshmallows on top. I still double the recipe for a Crock-Pot version that’s great for large parties.
A later culinary discovery, Mexican hot chocolate, took me back to my (half-) Latino roots with a slightly more sophisticated and elevated version. The added spices of cinnamon, cayenne and real vanilla help elevate the basic recipe, and substituting brown sugar for white intensifies the flavor.
In my quest for new and different hot chocolate recipes (chocolate and coffee are my food obsessions!), I only recently discovered that the richest and thickest version of this drink is found in France.
If there’s one thing the Europeans understand better than anyone else, it’s chocolate. Just reading through their cookbooks is enough to make me swoon. Rich cream partially replaces the milk that other countries use as a base. Chunks of decadent dark chocolate replaces cocoa powder, and the espresso gives a heightened depth of flavor.
Dessert in a mug is an accurate description of this delicacy. The whipped cream served on the side is a must to add additional creaminess and a slightly lighter texture to the thick chocolate mixture, and a dense cookie or high-quality biscotti is an absolute must for dunking. This biscotti was like the frosting on the cake. I'm not embarrassed to say I actually sighed out loud with my eyes closed when I took my first bite.
Marlo’s Bake Shop knows its biscotti, and my cookie of choice today was its Double Chocolate Espresso flavor. I debated so long between this and its Chocolate Pumpkin Pie flavor I ended up trying a little of each... Don't worry — I shared!
Though this might not be a drink of choice for large family gatherings, it’s absolutely perfection for a decadent after-dinner treat for two (in small mugs) or six (in espresso cups). But heed a word of warning: Don't attempt a large mug — it truly is intensely rich, and a little goes a long way. My daughter came over to taste test (and model), and saved half her mug for an afternoon treat.
French-style hot chocolate
To make homemade whipped cream, whip 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Keep chilled until ready to use. There will be plenty of leftovers for other treats or morning coffee.
Serves 2 – 6, depending on size
Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 5 minutes | Total time: 20 minutes
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons white or raw sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
- 8 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate (I used 2 bars Ghirardelli 60%)
- Peppermint and/or shaved chocolate, for garnish (optional)
- Fresh whipped cream (see recipe headnote for homemade version)
- In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, combine the whole milk, heavy cream, sugar and espresso powder until just beginning to simmer around the edges. Reduce the heat to the lowest simmer before the mixture comes to a boil.
- Stir in the chopped chocolate until melted completely.
- This next step can be omitted, but whipping it will give it a frothy, smooth texture. With a hand blender or traditional blender, whip for a full minute, and serve immediately, steaming and frothy. Serve whipped cream on the side.
- Store any leftovers covered in the refrigerator, and reheat to serve.
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