I tend to stick to the basics with my drink choices - that is, water, coffee, wine, beer - and I very rarely have anything else. Except for hot chocolate. I truly love hot chocolate...if it's good. (Hot chocolate made with syrup is practically an abomination.) When I studied abroad in France, I made it a central component of my cultural education to have un chocolat at a different cafe every single afternoon (thank goodness my other activity was walking everywhere rather than taking the metro). Then I came back and lived for a year with my best friend who has a similar affliction. We drank hot chocolate very nearly every night. During that year we perfected a technique that we felt made the best hot chocolate, which includes both cocoa and chocolate, plus a tiny bit of salt and vanilla, which bring out the rich play of sweet and bitter that you get in dark chocolate. We both were - and still are now, years later - avid cross-country skiers, and quickly decided that a steaming cup of chocolate with a crowning cap of whipped cream is the perfect way to relax after being on the trails all day. And if you really want to unwind, lace it with a touch of cognac (for which I inherited an affection from my - slightly crazy - great aunt) both in the cocoa and the whipped cream (if you've never made cognac-whipped cream before, beware, you may never go back!), because hey, you don't have to get back onto the trails until tomorrow. - fiveandspice —fiveandspice
Test Kitchen Notes
One sip of L’Apres Ski and I was transported to a Chamonix ski lodge after a long day on the slopes—not that I’ve ever been, but this is the sort of hot chocolate I imagine is sipped fireside there. It’s deeply chocolatey, without the usual cloying sweetness, thanks to the addition of dark chocolate and minimal sugar. I made this without the cognac and whipped cream for an afternoon treat and later, fully loaded, which is more like dessert. Either way, it’s fantastic and will become a winter staple in my house. —Midge
1 1/2 ounces
cognac (or if you're into hazelnut flavor you can try frangelico, it makes sweeter and more desserty)
good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
vanilla extract (or you can make vanilla sugar by keeping a vanilla bean in some sugar and then just use that instead and omit the extract)
(a small one) salt (preferably fine sea salt as regular salt can have a slightly abrasive flavor)
finely chopped good dark chocolate (65-70% cocoa solids, at least)
1 1/2 cups
Cognac whipped cream
heavy whipping cream
In This Recipe
Get out two mugs and divide the cognac between them. (If you like your drinks to have a pretty solid cognac punch to them, you can add a little splash more.)
In a saucepan (with the heat turned off), combine the cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla, salt, and chopped chocolate. Whisk in a few Tablespoons of the milk to make a paste. Whisk in a bit more to make a thinner paste. Then, turn the heat to medium. And cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until it begins to warm.
Whisk in the rest of the milk and as it heats, keep whisking to blend the chocolate shavings in as they fully melt. Heat the hot chocolate until it is steaming and is hot to the touch (I just stick my finger in there because I don't own a thermometer and I figure it's not going to hurt anyone) but not yet simmering. You don't want it to bubble.
Pour the hot chocolate into the mugs over the cognac, stir, and top each mug with a nice dollop of cognac whipped cream. Garnish with some chocolate shavings, if desired, then relax and enjoy!
Cognac whipped cream
Whip all the ingredients together until peaks (that are right in between soft and stiff) form. Dollop on top of the hot chocolate. This will make more than you need, but I find it hard to whip cream in a much smaller amount than half a cup, and I trust that you will find good use for the rest of it.
I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (www.vikredistillery.com), where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.