When we lived in Boston, each winter I would head to Harvard Square to have hot chocolate at Burdick’s at least once. Nestled on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts right on Harvard University’s campus is L.A. Burdick, a memorable little chocolate shop & cafe with handmade artisanal chocolates and cute signature creations like chocolate mice and penguins. Most importantly, Burdick’s has the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. You can choose either dark, milk, or white hot chocolate and they describe it like this: “shaved chocolate and cocoa powder whisked into steamed milk and topped with foam and grated spice ball.” Oh my. Burdick’s hot chocolate is #1 in my book because I’m a chocoholic and it’s an intense sip of nothing-but-chocolate. You could call it a ‘sipping chocolate’ really, akin to something like an aprés dinner Canadian ice wine. It’s thick, luxurious, and deeply, satisfyingly chocolatey.
Since childhood, I’ve had all sorts of hot chocolate from the Swiss Miss instant packets we drank in styrofoam cups with mittened hands after ice skating in Canada to the quick on-the-go latte style cups of hot chocolate from Starbucks to the artisanal hot chocolate in a porcelain cup & saucer at Burdick’s. I’ve always known that chocolate has its roots in South America and think of Mexico when chocolate is combined with red chili pepper, but that’s about it. This got me wondering about the difference between ‘hot chocolate’ and ‘hot cocoa’ and led me to an interesting article called, “History of Hot Chocolate.” According to this —
Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, which is chocolate pressed free of all its richness, meaning the fat of cocoa butter while hot chocolate is made from chocolate melted into cream and is a rich, decadent drink. Apparently the original hot chocolate was a mixture of ground cocoa beans, water, wine, and chile peppers; in Mexico, early chocolate was only consumed in beverage form. Before long, the Spanish began heating the mixture and sweetening it with sugar, and then after being introduced in England, milk was added.
I started thinking about what I would consider the “ultimate hot chocolate” and how I would make it. My sister Myna and I love dark chocolate. The darker the better. Moreover, there’s something about the flavor combinations of ‘sweet & spicy’ and ‘bittersweet’ that have appealed to millions of people for generations. Here’s what I came up with. I adapted it from Burdick’s recipe, which if you follow the definition above, is a mix between hot cocoa and hot chocolate because it combines cocoa powder and melted chocolate in milk. Even if you’re not a fan of dark chocolate on its own, my recipe might surprise you. It whisks together Lindt’s richly bittersweet red chili dark chocolate with whole milk, cocoa powder, a dash of ground cayenne, and another dash of sea salt. It takes no more than 5 minutes on the stove. The best of everything that is sweet and spicy in one cup. So if you’re looking for that ultimate chocolate fix, look no further. It’s something to sip romantically in front of a roaring fire or the perfect aprés dinner dessert you can serve in small espresso cups.
Dark Hot Chocolate spiked with Red Chili
Serves 2 generously (or serves 4 in espresso cups as an after dinner treat)
- 1.5 cups whole milk
- 6 squares Lindt dark with red chili
- 2 teaspoons good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
- Dash of ground cayenne pepper (1/8 teaspoon)
- Dash of ground sea salt (1/8 teaspoon)
- Heat milk to just below boiling — make sure it doesn’t boil; very light bubbling is fine, but no boiling!
- Gently drop in chocolate squares. Whisk to combine. Add cocoa powder. Whisk again. Combine well. Add cayenne pepper and sea salt.
- Let it bubble very lightly, you want it to thicken every-so-slowy. Once it coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat. Serve immediately and lean back in a big, comfy chair.
Recipe adapted from Burdick’s Famous Hot Cocoa Recipe