It’s raining and coldish in Los Angeles again. (I say coldish so my East Coast friends and family don’t tease me mercilessly: It’s 50 here, as opposed to in the teens there.) Winter is knocking at the door and that means one thing: hot chocolate.
For the past two months I’ve been on a hot chocolate quest. I’ve had the powered stuff, the real stuff and I’ve made several different iterations myself. This is probably a never-ending quest, but so far my favorite restaurant versions have been Joan’s on Third (it was the day before Halloween and the barista made a little ghost out of the steamed milk!) and Aroma Café (the whipped cream is streaked with chocolate syrup!). Which brings me to my hot chocolate revelation: The perfect cup of chocolate must have the perfect balance of sweetness and chocolatiness. You know what I mean if you’ve ever had a cup that was overwhelming in either department.
Real hot chocolate has spoiled me for good, and I can safely say I will probably not go back to any kind of powdered stuff made with water. It’s gotta be the real thing made with some kinda milk. One has to have standards, don’t you agree?
Real Hot Chocolate
Feel free to use regular milk here if you want. There is, however, a great variety of dairy-free milks to choose from: hazelnut, oat, rice, coconut as well as almond and soy. A lot of dairy-free milks have added sugar, and I find they make the hot chocolate a bit too sweet. I’ve made this with chocolate chips, and it’s hard to get those suckers to dissolve completely. I heard Ina Garten say that chocolate chips are made with stabilizers so they retain their form in cookies. I think Ina’s right. (Again.) If you’re rolling vegan with this, make sure whatever chocolate you use is free of dairy.
8 ounces unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 ounces finely chopped dark chocolate (I like Scharffen Berger 62% cacao)
1 or 2 tablespoons coconut milk (optional)
1. Combine the almond milk and chocolate in a small saucepan and heat, whisking constantly, until almond milk and chocolate become one. Simmer gently until the milk is steaming but not boiling.
2. Pour hot chocolate into your favorite mug. Stir in a tablespoon or two of coconut milk if you roll that way. Drink and enjoy.