February 18, 2009

Like-A-Dream Hot Chocolate


In what seems like another lifetime, I studied art for a semester in Florence. At twenty, I thought it was the beginning of many more adventures like it. Seven years later, I’ve been back to Europe once, which only leads me to wonder why experiences like that wasted on the young. I mostly remember just walking, walking, everywhere, my loneliness clutched around me like a blanket, my heart heavy with the beauty of the place.

I’ll never forget what it felt like once the air turned from crisp autumn to damp winter. Though I was a transplant from college in Minnesota, I had never felt cold like this. The air was so humid, the cold sunk right through my clothes and into my bones. On one particularly cold, bright, wind-whipping day, my classmates and I stood in the Piazza della Signoria listening to presentations on the Fountain of Neptune, the Rape of the Sabine Women, and Judith and Holofernes. I remember standing, my hands thrust deep into the pockets of my velvet blazer, wanting so badly to run inside somewhere, anywhere. But in an act of generosity and whim that really made an impression on me, our program leader waved her gloved hands in the air and suggested we drink hot chocolate rather than stand in the cold.

However many of us there were — 20? 30? I’m not sure — filed into a bright, elegant cafe where hot chocolate was ordered for all of us. As the cups were filled, we passed them through the throngs until each of us standing in the middle of the black and white tiled floor was holding a cup and saucer.

I’m not sure if the hot chocolate would today win for my favorite, but at the time, I had not ever tasted, nor could I ever imagine tasting, anything as delicious. It was the perfect thing at the perfect time. And come to think of it, that’s probably why charmed events like this happen to young, clueless girls of twenty.

Since then, I’ve tried every kind of hot chocolate that crosses my path, and happily spent most nights last winter in bed, sipping at something warm, and reading the very best string of books ever. But I think the search for the perfect make-at-home hot chocolate ends here. When I took a sip of this last night, after a disappointing dinner, I literally cooed. All was redeemed. I sat down with the new book — one of your many fabulous suggestions — and called it a night.

I made a fine mess making this hot chocolate last night. The final and magical step for this hot chocolate is to blend it for a minute (it’s Blender Week on Pink of Perfection!). Now, when Molly says to take care blending hot liquids she means it. More specifically, take out the plastic nob that usually covers the hole in the lid of your blender, and drape a dishtowel over the lid and hold tight. I know this seems like a lot of fiddling for hot chocolate, but the blender step whips the hot chocolate into frothy perfection and, trust me, is worth it.

Hot Chocolate
Orangette‘s adaptation of Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Ladurée
Serves 2

1 ½ cups whole milk
2 ½ tablespoons water
2 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, water, and sugar. Place over medium heat and whisk occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture just to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate. At this point, blend the mixture. If you have an immersion blender, you can do this directly in the saucepan; if not, you’ll need to transfer it to a traditional blender. Either way, blend for 1 minute (on high speed, if using a traditional blender – and take care(!), as hot liquids expand when blended). The finished mixture should be very smooth and frothy.

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  • Sara Rose: My fave hot chocolate is Abuelita- it’s a “mexican chocolate drink”. Everytime I read that on the box, I laugh.6 years ago

  • Sara Rose: Have you tried to make Serendipity’s frozen hot chocolate?
    I want to try to make it very soon!6 years ago

  • Karen: Hi, I just came across your blog while googling “spring dinner parties” and I thought I’d browse around. I think your site is amazing.

    I actually just wrote a post on cozy reading spots, so this one on drinking yummy hot chocolate while reading a good caught my eye. Sounds like a dream.6 years ago

  • Staci M.W: I posted yesterday about loving ICTC and we clearly must be on one of the same wavelengths because I read (and enjoyed) Cold Comfort Farm, too! Totally zany and the perfect farce for all that occasionally stuff Brit lit. Another good pick for a winter read!6 years ago

  • Sara Rose, This one is cinnamon and spice free, but I dare you to not love it! And I haven’t tried Serendipity’s frozen hot chocolate. The few times I’ve walked by, it’s always mobbed with UESiders. I’m more of a Chocolate Bar hot chocolate girl.

    Karen, Thanks for stopping by. There is definitely something dreamy about hot chocolate + a good book.

    Staci, So far, I love Cold Comfort Farm. Has made me laugh out loud several times in the first 40 pages.6 years ago

  • Kristina: I love your description of Florence. It’s funny to me that you consider it wasted. I never studied abroad– but I can imagine it might’ve been lonely, and that loneliness (especially when you’re 20) can really detract from your enjoyment of charmed experiences. Hm. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. :) 6 years ago

  • Kristina, I was overstating it a bit. I wouldn’t take it back for anything — it was just that I took it for granted (as appreciative as I was), just because I was so young. You think adventures like that will happen all the time. But they are a little fewer and far between once you “grow up.”6 years ago

  • Sandy: It’s funny because my mom used to make us hot chocolate in the evenings, usually on the weekends, and she used the blending technique you describe in your article. Like Sara Rose, she used “Abuelita” Mexican chocolate. It was delicious!6 years ago

  • Sara Rose: Abuelita is the best, plain and simple. It’s even better all boozed up. Oh I posted a link to a recipe for tSerendipity’s frozen hot chocolate. It is an UES nightmare to ever try to go there. When I went there I was 16 and somehow we got right in (this was before the movie of course, so never mind) and it was a totally memorable experience. I doubt I would go back now though, some things are best only experienced once.6 years ago

  • Catharine: I studied in Perugia 7 years ago and your description of the experience is perfect. I too drank alot of hot chocolate during my time there and would be very happy to return.
    Thank you for such an evocative post!6 years ago

  • Catharine, I regret not taking a daytrip to Perugia with my roommate while I was there. She said the chocolate was amazing. :) 6 years ago

  • kat: I was fortunate to travel for work and eventually live in England for a short time. Although I loved planning and having been many places (Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Europe) I was always envious of people who said, “Don’t worry about being alone. I went alone, but met up with some people and we had a blast.” I never met anyone. Doesn’t change the fact that I loved having been, just still lonely.6 years ago

  • love,gidget: what a great post!! Really lovely.6 years ago

  • kat, I hear you. Some people can just meet people and make friend wherever they go. It’s a gift really. But loneliness can make traveling seem a little romantically melodramatic, which, of course, I like.

    gidget, thank you! you’re sweet.6 years ago

  • Suzy: The best hot chocolate I have ever had was also in Europe. Well, the UK. My hubs took me to London and Italy for my 30th birthday (to make up for giving me a lawnmower for my 29th–seriously), and on the very day we happened to be in Harrod’s where I spotted the pastel perfection that is Laduree (that I was unaware existed outside Paris). We immediately went for high tea where one could choose between tea and “drinking chocolate.” Obviously, I went for the chocolate and indeed it was pretty much liquified chocolate. Diluted perhaps by a bit of cream (!). While it wasn’t frothy in the realm of steamed milk, it was quite light despite its thick, heavy ingredients, so it must have been blended. Ectasy, truly. I’m surprised I didn’t orgasm right there among the very well-heeled diners (TMI–sorry). Anyway, if you or any of your readers ever has the chance… It is totally worth it, despite the exhorbitant price, the staff’s fake French accents (I started speaking French and they said “English, please.”), and dealing with the snottiest waiter and most horrible service I have ever encountered.6 years ago

  • Suzy, Wow, what a description. You made that sound AMAZING. Try this version if you need some hot chocolate stateside. Man, is it good.6 years ago

  • Emily C.: I’ve been making this recipe for the past week, and it is *fabulous*. Even when I use skim milk and the recipe on the back of the cocoa powder container, the immersion blending still adds something.6 years ago

  • La Mexican Food Diva: I love Mexican hot chocolate so much, that I named my blog after it! It is strong and complex. Just put a teensy bit of powdered chili powder and ay, ay, ay!
    Aside from Mexican, I adore Spanish hot chocolate like the type I had in Madrid with friends–it’s almost like a thin pudding, really. And if you stick a churro in it, it’s cielo de chocolate!6 years ago

  • shauna: I love the book under the cup… reason #457 i love your site, the attention to detail! Swoon :) Fighting the urge to go out and buy a blender right now!6 years ago

  • Wit,wok and wisdom: I’m extremely fond of hot chocolate but have always bought it or tried out readymade ones.Never have I tried to prepare one by myself.But reading your post makes me feel that it is worth giving a try!Lovely read!

    I found this photo here amazing and have used it in one of my posts at http://www.witwokandwisdom.blogspot.com with the proper credits.Please let me know if you are fine with it.Also,it would be a pleasure to have you drop by!5 years ago

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