Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Discovering True Hot Chocolate~

Well, we made it through Monday and have an early start on Tuesday's schedule! I'm not going to give you chocolate's history or use through the centuries, but I will say that chocolate has been used for thousands of years, and was once used as currency. I can see how you might trade anything else you own for a little chocolate, don't you?

The explorer Hernam Cortes explained his feelings about chocolate in a letter to Charles V of Spain: "The divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits man to walk for a whole day without food." Is this the same thing as a diet drink? Cortes must have thought so, because in 1528 when he returned to Spain from Mexico, he loaded his galleons with cocoa beans and chocolate drink-making equipment. Long live chocolate!

And as one of our forefathers, Thomas Jefferson, said: "The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain." Hmmm...I'll just have to take his word for it.

Before I give you recipes, let me tell you that there are volunteers who have proven that mental arithmetic becomes easier after taking large amounts of compounds found in chocolate--flavanols--in a hot cocoa drink. Findings presented at the British Physchological Society annual conference show that they were also less likely to feel tired or mentally drained. One professor even said that chocolate could be beneficial for mentally challenging tasks, and that for things that are difficult to do, or mentally demanding things that crop up in your work, chocolate could help. And the findings also suggested that students who binge on chocolate when studying for exams may gain a real benefit from doing so. So Jamie--in school and studying hard--is right on target with her supply of chocolate.

Because Americans are always in a hurry, I'm giving you some easy recipes first. I hope you'll try at least one of them sometime soon. All of my information and all of these recipes come from the website What's Cooking in America, where they've also done an exhaustive history of chocolate. This recipe calls for a double boiler to melt the chocolate, which is a good idea, because when chocolate gets too hot, it will turn grainy.

The Angelina Cafe in Paris, open since 1903, serves a thick hot chocolate version in demitasse cups with a tiny dollop of mascarpone and whipped cream. They are famous for making hot chocolate from melted chocolate bars. It is incredibly easy to prepare by mixing chocolate shavings with hot water. You can serve it in small cups or in 17th century style chocolate pots and demitasse cups such as those sold in gourmet shops.
Angelina's Hot Chocolate                                        
6 ounces fine-quality semisweet
or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup water, room temperature
3 tablespoons hot water
3 cups hot milk
sugar to taste
whipped cream, if desired

In a double boiler over low heat, combine chocolate and 1/4 cup water until melted, stirring occasionally; stir until smooth.
Remove top of double boiler pan from heat. Whisk in 3 tablespoons hot water. Pour into pitcher or divide among individual 4 mugs. Either stir 3/4 cup hot milk into each mug or serve milk in a separate pitcher. Pass sugar and whipped cream in separate bowls; add to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Here's an American version from The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, D. C. that is a delightful, gourmet hot chocolate. This will impress you and your guests!
Decadent Hot Chocolate

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups milk
sugar to taste

whipped cream
curls of white and milk chocolate

Place the milk and chopped chocolate, adding sugar to taste, in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk periodically until the mixture reaches boiling point and is foamy. Remove from heat and if more foam is desired, use a wire whisk or hand-held blender to whip the hot chocolate.

When the chocolate is prepared, place a dollop of whipped cream in the bottom of each tea cup. Place a curl of white chocolate and a curl of milk chocolate in the cup over or beside the whipped cream. Pour prepared hot chocolate over the top of the ingredients. The whipped cream will rise to the top and the chocolate curls will start melting. 
Note: Timing is important in making this hot chocolate, as you need to hand the person the cup right before you pour the hot chocolate into it. Makes 4 servings. 

Italy is famous for their Cioccolato Caldo, especially during the fall and winter months. This hot chocolate is sometimes served so thick (like a pudding) that you need a spoon to eat it! But this recipe doesn't make it that thick. The luxurious richness comes from using top-quality chocolate.

Italian Hot Chocolate - Cioccolato Caldo                                        
5 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder 
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao solids), finely chopped
2 cups milk

In a small saucepan, over low heat, add the cocoa powder, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the milk. Heat until the sugar melts and no lumps remain, stirring well. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly; add the remaining milk. Turn off the heat, add the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth. Pour into cups.

Mexican hot chocolate is popular in central and southern Mexico, where people drink chocolate twice a day year-round. Having a layer of foam on hot chocolate is as imortant today in Mexico as it was in ancient times. Mexcians believe the spirit of the drink is in the foam. The chocolate is whipped to a froth with a carved wooden utencil called a molinillo and served in mugs. I actually have a molinillo and some Mexican chocolate! So here's the recipe.

 Mexican Hot Chocolate I
6 cups milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 ounches unsweetened Mexican
chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Stick cinnamon (for optional garnish)

In a large saucepan, combine milk, sugar, chocolate, ground cinnamon, and salt. Heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate has melted and the milk is very hot. (Do not let the milk come to a boil.)

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl. Stir in one cup of the hot mixture into the eggs, then return this mixture to the saucepan. Cook 2-3 minutes more over low heat, still stirring.

Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Beat with a molinillo or a rotary beater until it is very frothy. Pour into mugs, garnish with cinnamon sticks, and serve. Makes about 6, 8-ounce servings.

Mexican Hot Chocolate II                                                      

4 1-ounce squares of Mexican chocolate
2 tablespoons honey                                                 
1/4 cup hot water
small pinch of salt
1 teaspoon instant coffee
2 cups milk
1 egg (optional)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 dried red chile pepper
ground cinnamon for sprinkling

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat, add the Mexican chocolate, honey, hot water, salt coffee, and chile pepper. Heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture just begins to boil; reduce heat to low and let simmer, stirring constantly, for approx. an additional 1 minute. Carefully stir in the milk and let sit over low heat until the chocolate is too warm to touch (you can see the steam rising from it.)

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg until it is frothy, using an electric mixer, a molinillo, or a fork for this. Add the vanilla extract and beat in well.

Pour the hot chocolate mixture over the frothed egg and beat it vigorously for about 15 seconds. You want to beat it until you have about 1/2 to 1 inch of foam on top.

Pour into cups or mugs to serve. Sprinkle some ground cinnamon over the hot chocolate.

If you've seen the movie Chocolat, here is the recipe for the hot chocolate served in it. 

Mayan Hot Chocolate
2 cups boiling water
1 chile pepper, cut in half, seeds removed (with gloves)
5 cups light cream or whole or nonfat milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 to 2 cinnamon sticks
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate OR
3 tablets Mexican chocolate, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 tablespoons granulated surgar or honey, or to taste
1 tablespoon almonds or hazelnuts, ground extra fine
Whipped cream

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add chile pepper to boiling water. Cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Remove chile pepper; strain water and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream or milk, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick until bubbles appear around the edge. Reduce heat to low; add chocolate and sugar or honey; whisk occasionally until chocolate is melted and sugar dissolves. Turn off heat; remove vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Add chile-infused water, a little at a time, tasting to make sure the flavor isn't too strong. If chocolate is too thick, thin with a little more milk.

Serve in small cups and offer ground almonds or hazelnuts and whipped cream.

And that's my love sent out to all of you in the form of hot chocolate! Please take time to enjoy the pleasures that God has given to us. It's good for you, and it's good for your family and friends.

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