The most delicious hot chocolate in the world is not made with cocoa powder, but with chocolate liquor. No, not THAT kind of liquor.
“Chocolate liquor” is the term used for the thick paste that results when whole cocoa beans are fermented, roasted, crushed into ‘nibs,’ and lastly, finely ground. All real chocolate begins with this raw ingredient. This chocolate liquor (also called chocolate mass or paste) consists of 100% cacao – both the cocoa solids and rich, oily cocoa butter. During the grinding process, it becomes a thick, gooey paste as the heat from the grinding process melts the cocoa butter contained in the nibs. As it cools, it solidifies into something that looks and smells like dark chocolate, and it looks good enough to take a bite, but it wouldn’t be very appetizing at this stage.
The result is essentially unsweetened bitter chocolate, and while it’s probaby not something you’d want to eat by itself, it’s the perfect ingredient for baking, cooking and – you guessed it – the ultimate drinking chocolate.
Why would anyone bother with hard-to-find (and frankly, more expensive) chocolate liquor when old-fashioned cocoa powder is easily obtained at any corner store? For the same reasons you’d drink good wine, a well-made craft beer or grind & brew your own coffee beans: quality and flavor. Hot chocolate brewed from minimally processed chocolate liquor delivers all of the complex flavors derived from whole cocoa beans. Heavily processed, mass produced cocoa powders just can’t compare with the real thing.
Our recipe for hot chocolate includes three ingredients that subtly enhance the natural flavors of chocolate: chile pepper, vanilla and cinnamon. You can vary the amounts according to your personal taste, or even omit them altogether. We heartily suggest that you try this version first, though – otherwise, you may miss out on an intense experience for true chocolate lovers.
Real Hot Chocolate, From Scratch
- 4 oz chocolate liquor
- 4 cups milk
- 1/2 raw cane sugar, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional)
- dash good quality ground cinnamon
Grate the chocolate liquor with a sharp, fine-toothed grater or microplane. We found that it’s far easier to grate the chocolate than it is to shave or chop it with a knife. This technique also yields a a light, fluffy form of chocolate “powder” that melts quickly, with no lumps or unpleasant grittiness.
Place a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and pour in the milk. We used regular whole milk straight from the carton with outstanding results. Add the grated chocolate liquor, sugar and salt. The raw cane sugar that we used is a little bit less sweet, but more flavorful than regular refined sugar. If you use regular sugar, start with a bit less, then adjust to your personal taste.
Heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate and sugar are completely dissolved and the mixture is quite hot, but not boiling. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, cinnamon and cayenne (if using). Hot chile pepper may seem to be an odd ingredient to pair with chocolate, but chile peppers were used by the Aztecs in their chocolate brews. While this version of hot chocolate is nothing like the stuff the Aztecs drank (we’d probably find it unpleasant and barely palatable), the pleasantly spicy bite of chiles adds a certain kick that wakes up your taste buds and should not be missed.
Using a hand-held immersible blender, whip the hot chocolate until a layer of froth forms on the surface – a minute or two is all it takes. Pour into warm cups, making sure that the foam is distributed equally between them, and serve immediately. Don’t bother with whipped cream or those little marshmallows. This chocolate is just too good on its own.
Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, Earthy.com. We welcome you to visit the Earthy.com website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.
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