Hot Chocolate Nirvana, Mallorca, Spain (Feb. 2012).
When I was a child I was served cocoa made from packets and hot water. Hmm. Then I experienced hot cocoa made with an American brand cocoa powder, sugar, and steaming milk. How could both share the same name? I would never go back to packets and water. But then I tasted hot chocolate made with a British brand drinking chocolate mixed into hot milk. This new drink was no longer hot cocoa, but smooth and rich hot CHOCOLATE.
December. 2011. Prague Christmas Market. Nirvana. A tiny cup of hot chocolate with a consistency and flavor akin to warm chocolate pudding. So rick, thick, and silky, I genuinely could not stop smiling. With whipped cream on top, it was pure decadence. When we left Prague, I thought I was leaving not only a gorgeous city, but the home of the most amazing hot chocolate on earth.
Fast forward. Mirador de Ses Barques, Mallorca, Spain. Sitting atop a mountain just climbed, with a cool breeze flowing up from the bay below, I experienced hot chocolate nirvana again. I’d thought Prague was my one and only go-to destination for the best hot chocolate on the planet, but there I sat, hands wrapped around a tiny cup of heaven. A heaven that will link Prague and Mallorca eternally in my ever hot chocolate lovin’ heart.
As I reached the bottom of the cup, a thought occurred to me: Could I make something so divine in my own kitchen? There has to be a way. Returning from our trip to Mallorca, we stopped at the grocery store on our way home. As we cruised down the aisle containing various brands of hot chocolate, I spotted, on the very top shelf, (Choir sings, “Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh”) Spanish Hot Chocolate.
I made a cup that evening, but my journey was not to end. The texture was right (thanks to starch E-1420), but the flavor was far from spot on. The next time I made a cup I doctored it with a small handful of Belgian chocolate chips. Quite tasty, actually. Getting closer but, at the same time, not even close.
Light bulb moment: find a recipe on the Internet (duh!). Several hours and multiple discarded recipes later, I think I’ve found a potential winner. Here’s how I made “Spanish Hot Chocolate” from scratch:
Two ounces of chocolate. (The recipe called for milk chocolate, but I only had semi-sweet on hand and I like semi-sweet better than milk chocolate anyway.)
One cup of whole milk and 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch (known as corn flour in the UK), blended and then heated until almost but not quite boiling.
Whisk the chocolate into the milk until melted and well blended. Done and done, but the texture didn’t seem nearly thick enough, so I added another 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch. Then another 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch. Better. I think.
So, finally, the moment of truth. I took a tentative sip… Why was I surprised that it tasted like semi-sweet chocolate and not like warm chocolate pudding when, basically, the only flavorful ingredient IS semi-sweet chocolate? Not a bad flavor at all, but certainly not my nirvana.
The quest continues…