I’ve never been a big one for hot beverages. Oh, I do like a cup of coffee every now and then, as well as the occasional mug of hot water with a slice of lemon on top, but aside from that, meh, I could take it or leave it. Part of the problem, I think, is that I’m forever burning my tongue. It’s a tender little bugger. Having burned it so many times, I hardly even want hot drinks anymore. If I’m going to burn the darned thing, I figure, it should be for something more substantial, more filling, than just a dinky cup of coffee or tea. (No offense, of course, to you coffee and tea aficionados. Anyway, this means more for you! Hooray!)

But then – because, you know, there’s always a but then – a couple of weeks ago, quite out of the blue, I had a craving for hot chocolate. (And mulled cider. But mainly hot chocolate.) You can imagine what a shock this was. I hardly even remember the last time I had hot chocolate. It was a few years ago, at least. I think it might have been when I was a student in Paris. My mother was visiting, and it was cold outside, and we went to Ladurée. We ordered a small pot of coffee and the same of hot chocolate, and when they came, on a whim, we poured them together, mixing them into our dainty cups. The result was exquisite. We felt like geniuses. The cherubs on the frescoed ceiling even smiled down kindly upon us. But despite all that, I don’t think I’ve had hot chocolate since. Or not more than a sip of someone else’s, anyway. I just never think of it.

Isn’t that sad? All that wasted time – that precious, precious time. Oh woe. I tear up just thinking about it. Sob.

Which is why I thank my lucky stars today for Dorie Greenspan, for her Paris Sweets, for the hot chocolate recipe it contains, and for craving that called me to it. Phew. From this day forth, I have lots of catching up to do.

There are loads of hot chocolate recipes out there, but this one, adapted from none other than Ladurée, is my tippy-top, honest-to-goodness ideal. The best part is that it has only four ingredients, and that they’re simple pantry types: milk, water, sugar, and chocolate. You warm them together in a saucepan, easy-peasy, and then, when the mixture is hot, whip it with an immersion blender until it’s smooth and frothy – like a proper cappuccino, you could say, only way better, because this is chocolate.

In a lineup of hot chocolates, this one would stand somewhere in the middle, which is just where I like it. It’s medium-bodied – thicker than Swiss Miss, but not so sludgy that you could stand up a spoon in it. Likewise, it’s richer than your average specimen, but not so rich that you feel compelled to pace your sips, break out in a sweat, sleep it off, and/or die afterwards. I know a lot of people who love the hot chocolate at City Bakery in New York, but to my way of thinking, this one is even better. It’s more moderate, richness-wise – a little more sustainable, for lack of a better word – but still, it pushes all the right buttons. In fact, after his second sip, Brandon proclaimed that he wanted to swim in it. That says it all, I think. I just hope there’s room in the pool for two. I plan to spend the rest of the winter there.


Oh, and speaking of winter, I wanted to tell you about a cooking class(!) that Brandon and I will be co-teaching later this month, on the topic of winter produce. The class will be held in Bellingham, at In the Kitchen, a new venture for Ciao Thyme, the caterers of our wedding. We are over-the-moon honored that they’ve invited us to teach in their stunning new kitchen. Our class is scheduled for Tuesday, January 29, at 6:30 pm. We’ll be sharing techniques and recipes for some of our favorite misunderstood vegetables – fennel, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower – and we just can’t wait. You can find more information and sign up here.

(And if you can’t make it this time, we’ll also be teaching a class on eggs – poached, boiled, beaten into mayonnaise, whipped into soufflé, you name it – on March 18. You can learn more right here.)

Hot Chocolate
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Ladurée

The original version of this recipe uses twice as much of each ingredient listed below, serving four people. To make it more friendly for my household, I’ve halved it to serve two. But feel free, of course, to multiply the amounts to serve four or six or however many you want. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to skip the blending step. It helps to incorporate the chocolate and makes the texture velvety-smooth.

My favorite chocolate for this is Scharffen Berger 70%. Use any bittersweet chocolate you like, but keep in mind that it should be one you love, since its flavor takes center stage.

1 ½ cups whole milk
2 ½ Tbsp. water
2 ½ Tbsp. granulated sugar
3 oz. 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.

Serve immediately.

Note: Should you have any leftover hot chocolate – wishful thinking, I know – you can store in the refrigerator for 2 days. Reheat it gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, until hot. Blend for 1 minute; then serve immediately.

Yield: 2 servings