Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Ciocolata Calda

Italian hot chocolate or ciocolata calda is the best hot chocolate in the world.  This comes close and for a Christmas Eve treat is unbeatable in my opinion.
I am a little bit of a hot chocolate snob.  The problem is I associate hot chocolate with the liquid shots of hot chocolate you get in the alpine cabins in Italy half way through a day on the slopes when you need a serious sugar hit to get you back down to the ski lifts.  That chocolate is more like liquid dark chocolate flavoured with sugar and spices and evokes memories of crisp mornings, fresh snow and the rush of exhilaration you feel zooming down a mountain on two narrow strips attached to your feet.
I cannot abide powdered, overly sweet chocolate powder heated with boiling water that is lumpy, the type of sweet and grainy you only get with bad advent calender chocolate and unpleasantly watery.
Thankfully this hot chocolate is none of the above.  It is based on the Dutch Anijsmelk and is thick (although not liquid chocolate thick), spicey, has a slight sweetness to take the edge of the bitter chocolate and tastes utterly indulgent.
It is also very simple to make and is ready in less than five minutes!

You need:

1 litre full fat milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cassia flakes
1 tablespoon whole green aniseed
1 1/2 teaspoons mace
1/2 cm cut ginger
5-8 cloves
100g dark chocolate (75% or above)

In a large saucepan heat up the milk, sugar and spices.  It is important to use whole spices as you need to strain them out later!
When the mixture is warm break the chocolate into the milk and spices mix and stir until it is fully dissolved.  Continue to heat but don't allow the milk to boil.  When it is ready,  strain the chocolate into glasses or mugs and garnish with marshmallows if you want to add an extra layer of gooey sweetness.  If you want to go really indulgent, add a shot of rum!
Serve with the Speculaas for dunking and imagine you are in front of a roaring log fire with a warm blanket over your legs, feeling your lightly aching muscles relaxing after a full day on the slopes, and watching gentle flakes of snow ghosting down outside the window through which you can just make out the alps looming protectively over the little village below you lit with sparkling lights.

Well, we can all dream, can't we?
 Happy Christmas everyone, I hope it is perfect for all of you.  See you after Boxing Day!

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