December 29, 2005

Epileptic Fit Hot Chocolate

by peterb

My typical recipe for drinking chocolate involves cocoa powder, whole milk, a pinch of salt, and some vanilla. No sugar. Chocolate is supposed to be bitter. A pinch of cayenne pepper will serve, too.

But sometimes, once in a blue moon, on a particularly bad day, you have to do something different. Here's one way to do it.

This recipe sprang from a fundamental misunderstanding about hot chocolate in Madrid. You only ever eat churros and chocolate at 4 in the morning after being out drinking all night. So of course, when trying to replicate the recipe I used Drunk Guy Logic. It goes like this:

Yum. Chocolate good. Thog like chocolate. Chocolate thick. Thog like thick chocolate. Thog wonder how pretty Madrid seņorita make chocolate so thick. Mmmmmmmmm, chocolate. Thog think pretty Madrid lady probably just put lots of chocolate in. Yeah, that it. Thog sure.

You see, it never occurred to Thog that they used corn starch. What can I say. It was 4 in the morning.

So, I eventually figured out how to replicate the experience of Madrid chocolate, without using corn starch. There are a few key differences between my recipe and the authentic one. First, and most importantly, it is not served to you by a cute madrileņo or madrileņa. Second, it's a bit more of a pain to make. Third, if you drink too much of it, you will go into a chocolate overdose seizure, and die.


  • One large monopoly-board sized bar of chocolate. I traditionally use Callebaut bittersweet, because that was the last bar this size I bought. Over time, my taste has changed, and if I was doing this again, I'd get something with more cocoa and less sugar. Be warned that once you buy one of these monopoly-board sized, 11 pound bars of chocolate, you will own it forever. When you're not looking, it regenerates used portions by absorbing nearby materials and metabolizing them. Keep it away from pets.
  • A ball-peen hammer.
  • A double boiler (or just two saucepans with which you'll make a bain-marie).
  • Milk.
  • (Optional) a portable defibrillator.

Keep the chocolate wrapped in its paper. Have a friend hold the bar in mid air. Thwack the bar near the end with the ball-peen hammer, shattering it. Take off some large pieces — you're looking for maybe between a half pound and a pound of chocolate — and put them in your double boiler or bain marie. Heat on medium, checking every 5 minutes or so. Try not to mess with it too much.

Try to not get any water at all (including condensation from steam) into the chocolate. If any water does get into the chocolate, it will seize up and harden. If this happens, don't panic. The solution to water in your chocolate is, counterintuitively, to add more water and mix it in, until it flows again.

Once the choclate is soft and molten, add milk and stir. It should still be somewhat thick even after adding the milk; if you used a sufficiently stupidly huge chunk of chocolate to start with, and a small saucepan, you probably won't be able to thin it out too much. Heat it through. Serve when the little pieces of chocolate that re-solidified when you added the milk are melted again.

When drinking this with friends, always make sure at least one person abstains. That person can be the one to call 911.

You might die. But you'll die happy.

Posted by peterb at December 29, 2005 07:44 PM | Bookmark This

This is the general idea behnd the 'european style' hot chocolates you can get in 'finer coffeeshops' nowadays. The Starbucks version can't hold a candle to things like a homemade cup, or one from the chocolate place in the strip or Jacques Torres in nyc.

Now I just need to convince the chocolate store out behind my workplace to serve this sort of thing.

Posted by Shelby Davis at January 3, 2006 08:12 AM

Maybe it's just me, but that's exactly how my Mom always made hot chocolate when I was a kid (upstate NY). She used baker's chocolate, which is not the best in the world, but the milk was very fresh (dairy country). My grandmother's secret for making instant hot chocolate taste richer than it is: corn starch. Apparently it makes it SEEM creamier.

Posted by John at January 3, 2006 02:48 PM

If I wanted hard core chocolate flavour, I would use only water, and no milk. I was surprised by it, but I tried both at L.A. Burdick's in Cambridge. Unfortunately, I can't pass up the creamy dairy goodness. (Channelling Foamy the Squirrel: Creamy, creamy, cheesey, creamy.)

Last week's "Sugar Rush" featured Vosges (in Vegas). They have a Aztec Elixir Cocoa ($22/16oz). It has both ancho and chipotle chillies, along with Mexican vanilla beans, cinnamon and thickened with maize powder. The other two cocoas are not thickened.

They also have a $19 Molinillo. I bet they chuckle every time they carve one in Mexico to sell for a 1000x markup in El Norte.

Posted by Amos the Poker Cat at January 5, 2006 11:29 PM

About this time last year, I was working at the local coffee/candy shop when Starbucks came out with their super-rich Chantico. Not that the Chantico poses any real threat to our local coffee/candy shop, but I suggested that we counter by making something better, along the lines of what you describe.

We concocted some prototypes, using melted chocolate that they were using to make nut bark and blending a little milk in with the froth nozzle of the espresso machine. Man, it was good. I had less than the amount of an espresso shot, and it still gave me heart pains.

But we couldn't come up with a way to make it quickly and easily -- for a coffee chop, the production methods need to be fast and foolproof, and yet generate little waste. Ever since then though, I've been trying to think of a usable method of mass production. It's just too great a taste treat to abandon.

Posted by Cynthia Closkey at January 23, 2006 07:31 PM

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