Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com

Hot Chocolate a la Chocolat

Servings: 4
If you saw the 2001 film "Chocolat" starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp about a woman and her daughter who open a chocolate shop in a small French village that shakes up the rigid morality of the community, then you'll probably remember the scene where a scrumptious thick hot chocolate is served. The hot chocolate was so thick, it almost looked like a chocolate pudding. Well, here is a recipe for that warm and romantic drink. By the way, the chili pepper is optional, but I believe it's what really makes the hot chocolate so wonderful with just a little "heat" for a chilly day or evening.

2 cups boiling water
1 chili pepper, cut in half with seeds removed (I recommend using sweet ancho chili peppers)* see note below
5 cups light cream or whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1-2 cinnamon sticks
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate or 3 tablets Mexican chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons sugar or honey to taste

Garnish (optional):
1 tablespoon almonds or hazelnuts, ground extra-fine
Whipped cream
Cinnamon sticks

1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add chili pepper to boiling water.

2. Cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Remove chili pepper; strain water and set aside.

3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream or milk, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick until bubbles appear around the edge.

4. Reduce heat to low; add chocolate and sugar or honey, whisking occasionally until chocolate is melted and sugar dissolves.

5. Turn off heat, remove vanilla bean and cinnamon stick.

6. Add chili-infused water, a little at a time, tasting to make sure the flavor isn't too strong. If chocolate is too thick, thin with a little more milk.

7. Serve in small cups or glass mugs and offer ground almonds or hazelnuts and whipped cream. Garnish each serving with a cinnamon stick.

For a hot chocolate with a little more "heat", top with whipped cream and sprinkle a small bit of ground sweet ancho chili pepper over the whipped cream.

Use kitchen gloves when cutting the chile pepper in half and removing seeds.

Makes 4 servings.

Date: December 15, 2004