Raising the Bar on Drinking Chocolate
When I was a child, there were virtually no coffee shops, espresso drinks or coffee connoisseurs. The majority of Americans accepted grocery store brew as the norm. A few decades ago, the first cafes began opening and within some years, lattes, cappuccinos and macchiatos became part of daily routine. Opinions were formed on how to prepare the best drinks, specialty coffee producers thrived and high end espresso making equipment was purchased for the home. This country experienced a coffee revolution.
With the advent of coffee houses on every corner came powdered hot chocolate made with steamed milk as an alternative to the spitting spout of convenience stores. Though you can hardly say it is much of an improvement. Why is it so rarely found a fully frothed, traditional drinking chocolate made with real chocolate to satiate chocolate lovers desires. I think it is time for a drinking chocolate revolution! I dream of heavily frothed cocoa with thick foam and molinillos in most utensil drawers.
Interested in joining my crusade? Let’s drink to it! How about a perfect cup of chocolat chaud? Below is the beginning of a drinking chocolate education along with tips and tricks. I’ll keep exploring drinking chocolate this winter. Join me.
It is essential to use quality chocolate to make the best drinking chocolate. Ingredients are key in all culinary escapades when you hope to end up with the best end result. Do not choose chocolate with fillers and low cacao percentage. For our La Parisienne drinking chocolate, I include chocolate, Madagascan vanilla bean infused sugar and cocoa powder for an boost of chocolate intensity.
MILK, CREAM OR WATER?
As a stagiaire at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris, my job was to make the chocolat chaud. We used equal parts cream and full fat milk. The result was thick, rich drinking chocolate. I have enjoyed drinking chocolate made with all different milks, dairy and nut milks. I would suggest never using a microwave to warm it (it kills all the enzymes so I don’t even own one) and frothing the milk by hand or with a blender to feel the sensation that Montezema and the Aztecs did (see below.) If you are doing cupping or if you are a die hard chocolate purist you may insist on drinking chocolate made with water to taste the full breath of the chocolate as milk tends to mask the chocolate a bit.
This is a step that is most often forgotten. The Aztecs, Mayans and Olmecs were the first to sip a chocolate beverage over 500 years ago which was called xocatyl. This drinking chocolate was a far cry from the type we sip today, a mixture of chillies, annatto, maize and spices, served room temperature. The tincture was poured between two vessels from great heights in order to achieve the revered foam atop—believed to be the most potent portion of the beverage and to hold aphrodisiac powers. Years later when Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortés brought xocatyl back to Spain, the molinillo was created to simplify the foaming process.
To use a Mexican molinillo (pictured left), immerse the end in liquid chocolate and rub the handle rapidly between your palms. Watch as the foam begins to rise. You may also use a blender or immersion blender to froth the liquid chocolate as at time the molinillo can take almost 30 minutes to really build a big foam.
With any tasting, texture adds a new layer to the experience. The light, airy bubbles will burst gently in your mouth followed by the rush of warm liquid chocolate.
Stay tuned for additional experiments with drinking chocolate in the coming months. The cold Chicago wind is starting to nip at our noses and whistle by the windows. I’ll be huddling up to the stove warming chocolate!