Each winter since I moved here (this is the fourth), I've had a Winter Solstice Party for my very closest friends. The circle widens a bit each year, and this year it's actually going to be my Food52 celebration party. At any rate, the shortest night of the year has proved to be a good one to spend with those who have played such a part in helping me build a good, new life. I light a fire in the living room fireplace, and another in the fire pit outback. I light enough candles that we could practically heat the house with them. And after we've all eaten enormously well, these serve as our dessert.
I use thermal carafes that hold about 40 ounces each. Be sure to warm them with hot water while the milk & cream are heating. Also be sure to add the soft ganache to them last. I learned the hard way that it's much easier to incorporate from the top than attempting to scrape it up from the bottom. Quantities given will fill 2 carafes and serve 10-12 people. Adjust upwards or downwards as need be. —boulangere
Test Kitchen Notes
In a word: DELIGHTFUL. This comforting drink epitomizes happiness, invoking the warm creamy texture and flavors of the holiday season. It could be described as a luxurious--and boozy--version of hot chocolate. The rich chocolate is contrasted with the vibrant zing of the peppermint schnapps. The recipe allows for adjusting to individual tastes without compromising on taste and textures. Although it calls for an abundance of heavy cream and whole milk, the final product in no way tastes or feels heavy. I opted to crush a peppermint candy cane for a garnish. Whether served as a boozy drink for the adults, or without the peppermint schnapps to the kiddie crowd, this drink is a surefire hit.
First, make your ganache. Begin heating 8 ounces of cream in a non-reactive pot over medium heat. Chop the chocolate into relatively uniform pieces and place in a stainless steel bowl. Have nearby a plate with which to cover the bowl. When the cream JUST comes to a boil, immediately pour over the chopped chocolate, cover the bowl with the plate, and let sit for a minute. After the minute is up, stir slowly with a rubber spatula to completely blend and melt all of the chocolate.
Whip the cream to soft peaks. Store in the refrigerator in a well-chilled bowl until you’re ready to serve.
Heat the milk and cream to a scald in a non-reactive pot (tiny, uniform bubbles will appear all around the perimeter of the pot). While they are heating, fill the carafe(s) with hot water and screw on the cap. When milk mixture is hot, empty the carafe, pour in the half the milk and cream into each, then add the ganache. Use the handle of a wooden spoon or spatula to stir well to incorporate all the ganache.
I let my guests fill their mugs, add the Peppermint Schnapps and whipped cream in quantities they choose. Finally, a dusting of sweetened ground chocolate finish off the "truffle effect," and a candy cane goes in as a pretty stir-stick. Cheers to the shortest night of the year!