When I was in college, the coldest, snowiest days were always an excuse for my roommates and I to head to the Dollar Store and stock up on sugar-free instant hot chocolate. Although it was far from the most debatable of my life choices at that time, I look back and wonder, Why? Why drink a thin, watery, grainy, powder-flecked drink when there are so many better options?
In the battle between hot chocolate (made with duh, cocoa) and hot chocolate (made with melted chocolate) I will always be team chocolate. My go-to platonic hot chocolate will forever be the thick, decadent version that Maury Rubin perfected at the defunct City Bakery. Over the years, I’ve sought to recreate Rubin’s masterpiece in my home kitchen, a mission that gets harder and harder as time passes since tasting the original. So instead, I’m now chasing my own personal best.
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Thick hot chocolates usually rely on the Italian technique of adding cornstarch or the Viennese technique of adding an egg yolk. They often rely on additional sugar as well. I’d rather sacrifice some of that density for a simpler process that’s completely foolproof, but still kicks off an unexpected bloom.
If butter can show up in coffee and rum, it still deserves a place in a recipe that is essentially a drinkable ganache. You know how a knob of butter somehow finishes what does he touch? This. And when it’s golden? Oh my God, forget it. You can assemble this beauty in less than 15 minutes, by the way, if you’re looking to impress quickly.
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Several great European-style hot chocolate recipes call for both milk and heavy cream, so I’m just sharing the difference here and using half and half. You can play around with the proportions of milk and cream to suit your tastes or use any milk you like here. (Don’t use skim milk and expect to be blown away.) Top with whipped cream or marshmallows, and if by any chance there’s any left, treat yourself to an amazing cold chocolate milk tomorrow.
Recipe: Hot chocolate with hazelnut butter
Inspired by The Stay at Home Chef
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 2 cups half and half, or milk or your choice
- 1 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips and Lindt 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate
- Optional: pinch of sea salt and/or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, until it turns a dark amber color.
Slowly pour in the milk. Simmer while stirring constantly.
Add chocolate and stir until melted and well blended.
Add salt and vanilla, if using. Taste immediately.
If you have a hand blender or milk frother and you’re so stirred, it’s a good idea to whip your chocolate solidly before serving, just to incorporate everything and make it more voluminous.
More chocolate recipes we love: