Long Reads

Dorie Greenspan's Hot (and Cold) Chocolate

February  4, 2015

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: The perfect from-scratch hot chocolate -- and a cozier Valentine's Day -- is just 3 pantry ingredients and 10 minutes away.

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Think about trying to get a reservation on Valentine's Day. Then, of finding parking in the slush, of waiting at the door while icy fits of wind lap behind your ankles and up your back. Of trying to tune out other couples' murmurs and tears, of trying to make this evening meaningful, with neighbors at either elbow doing the same. 

Now think of finding a quiet, warm place in your home with your loved ones, cradling a mug of hot, creamy, bittersweet chocolate, and drinking it down. That's better, isn't it?

It's easy to forget about hot chocolate entirely, or to think you need to buy it ready-made in packets or discs. But unlike with more consuming sorts of DIYing, I can almost guarantee you have every ingredient on hand, and ample time to try it out right this second. Do you have chocolate and milk and sugar and water? Do you have a smallish pot and a stovetop? Do you have 10 minutes? Hopefully you have a blender too, but even if you don't, the exercise will be worth it.

The recipe comes from Ladurée via our gentle guide in all things French pastry, Dorie Greenspan. "In France, hot chocolate is not just for kids, it's a restorative -- and a pleasure -- for grown-ups and it's offered in cafés and tea salons throughout the year," Greenspan told me. "The chocolate is carefully chosen, the proportion of chocolate to milk and water (I was surprised by the water) is precise, and the frothy step is considered a necessity, not a fillip."


To make it at home, you'll need to heat up milk, water, and sugar; whisk in chopped dark chocolate; then blend it for a good minute. You could transfer it to a regular blender, but this will be one of those moments -- like puréeing soup or making 2-minute mayo -- when you'll be chuffed you own an immersion blender. 

Blending will perfectly emulsify the chocolatey mix, giving the drink more body and a nice frothy top. This one extra step will also cool it all down to the perfect temperature for guzzling just after ladling up -- just on the comfortable, fill-my-belly-now side of too-hot.


It won't be one of those sludgy drinking chocolates that's so rich it leaves you feeling a little short of breath. Instead, it just tastes like a very drinkable hot cocoa, a Swiss Miss with a deeper chocolate flavor and a hint more bitterness to offset the sugar. Even though this is the classy stuff, it still leans creamy and sweet. It won't make you grow up too much. 

Whatever is leftover will stay pretty much perfectly emulsified in the fridge. You can either reheat it gently, or just drink it all cold, over an ice cube or two. It will taste like the kind of fancy chocolate milk that you buy in a glass bottle and assume must secretly have cream in it. Greenspan even uses the cold chocolate to make ice cream floats -- you could use vanilla or coffee or cinnamon, but her favorite is Cherry Garcia. (Valentines, are you listening?)

Dorie Greenspan's Hot (and Cold) Chocolate

Adapted slightly from Paris Sweets (Clarkson Potter, 2002)

Serves 4

3 cups (750 grams) whole milk
1/3 cup (80 grams) water
1/3 cup (65 grams) sugar
6 ounces (175 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to Nozlee Samadzadeh and Molly Wizenberg for this one!

Photos by Alpha Smoot

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • EmilyC
  • Melinda Flannery
    Melinda Flannery
  • Ashley
  • AntoniaJames
  • softenbrownsugar
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


EmilyC February 6, 2015
I'm enjoying a hot mug of this right now. The grown-up Swiss Miss analogy is right on! (I've always had a soft spot for those little packets.) I might chill and try the leftovers in a chocolate malt.
Melinda F. February 5, 2015
I agree with Mary; my mom always added a pinch of salt.
Ashley February 5, 2015
This really is fantastic. I have a hot cocoa recipe I love, but this is something entirely different. Made it last post-blizzard, after the real temperature dropped to below zero (not wind chill, the temperature). It is incredibly rich and that made the leftover amazing served cold this morning -- same principle as Thai iced anything, right? You may want a bit more milk to cut the richness, especially if making for kiddos. It doesn't need variations, but agree with the idea of a bit of salt and after tasting, I added a couple drops of real vanilla to each cup before serving for a rounder, sweeter flavor. Steeping with some fresh orange peel while it comes up to boil would be wonderful too. An amazing treat.
AntoniaJames February 5, 2015
For an even stronger chocolate, Alice Medrich's is marvelous. She too makes the case for using water, but she recommends a much lower ratio of milk to the other ingredients. In her Rogue Baking Tips column here. Medrich explains: https://food52.com/blog/11995-hot-chocolate-for-chocolate-connoisseurs This is for small cups of mostly chocolate (hot)_ -- not about making a better chocolate milk (hot or cold). ;o)
softenbrownsugar February 5, 2015
Oh my gosh. How beautifully written is this and how beautifully photographed.
That was my first impression. Now onward and upward to the real deal. :)
Davis B. February 4, 2015
Immersion blenders are the bomb, yo!... as is homemade hot chocolate. However, if really pushed, I will admit to a secret addiction to those envelopes, generic no less.
AntoniaJames February 4, 2015
I was wondering how long it would take for "chuffed" to appear on Food52 (other than in a recipe submitted by a Brit) . . . You been enjoying Great British Bake Off, too? ;o)
Cindy February 4, 2015
I clicked on the 2 minute-mayo link to make my own and it recommended canola or veggie oils, not evoo. Can I use plain olive oil instead? Canola and veg oils are carcinogenic and I never use them. What other healthy oil can I use to make my own mayo?
catalinalacruz February 4, 2015
I use half olive oil and half avocado oil. Mayo made with all olive oil is too heavy in taste for me.
mary February 4, 2015
I just made it without the sugar and a pinch of salt. Delicious topped with a dollop of honey sweetened whipped cream.
Kristen M. February 4, 2015
Great call on the honey.
Rémy R. February 4, 2015
"other couples' murmurs and tears": amazing.
Kristen M. February 4, 2015
Can you tell I've been there? <3
MangoEats February 4, 2015
Although the recipe is welcomed, I really want to know where those tiny glasses are from!
JM February 4, 2015
I believe they are small Weck jars.
Kristen M. February 4, 2015
Yes, the photo of ingredients is all Weck (the middle two are the "Tulip" shape) -- you can find them all here: https://food52.com/provisions/search?q=weck
MangoEats February 4, 2015
Thanks guys!
lizaH February 4, 2015
I love my Weck jars!
Rebecca @. February 4, 2015
I'd like to try homemade hot chocolate again after reading about a few drinks around the world finished off in a similar way - poured between two cups repeatedly from a distance to froth it up (or blended like you suggested). My morning coffee, however, will remain as it is. Chugged. :)
Kristen M. February 4, 2015
I'm with you, except mine is chugged through a straw, so it's especially inelegant.
Kenzi W. February 4, 2015
Valentines, I hope you're listening: I drank this cold at the photo shoot, and floated quietly onto cloud nine.
Kristen M. February 4, 2015
I'm making you the Cherry Garcia version next, Valentine.