Twenty years, a culinary arts degree and plenty of kitchen experience and I think I ‘m finally ready to make a strong attempt at the hot chocolate of my dreams. There are a few key criteria this theoretical drink should have.
- It needs to be chocolatey enough in flavour that it feels like I’m drinking chocolate and not just a warm cocoa drink.
- It needs to be both smooth and creamy, no graininess, lumps or undissolved powders
- It needs to have a nice balance between the bitterness of the chocolate and the amount of sweetness
To satisfy the first of the two criteria, I’m using some pastry basics and decided to start by making a ganache. Ganache is essentially the combination of warm cream and chocolate. The chocolate melts into and combines with the cream to become this thick, chocolatey spread. It is a versatile pastry component that can be used for fillings, glazes, mousses, sauces, or turned into chocolate truffles.
We can thin out this super thick, delicious, chocolate goo by adding milk to the mixture and combining until you’ve reached your preferred consistency. Do not add water. Chocolate doesn’t like water and will become crystallized and grainy.
You can steep flavours into the cream like spices, herbs, citrus peels, booze and flavoured oils. Once they have infused their flavour you can easily remove them or strain the cream. This is a great opportunity to add flavour to the finished ganache while still keeping a smooth consistency.
For the most chocolate flavour I’ve opted for a dark, bittersweet chocolate. Since we are going to add so much cream and milk to it, starting with milk chocolate would leave us with too mild of a chocolate flavour. Quality chocolate will often have a percentage printed on the packaging. The higher the percentage the more actual chocolate is present. I’ve opted for 70% as it’s mostly cocoa solids but still has a little bit of sweetness to it. Anything from 54-70% would be a good choice for this sort of drink. To choose good chocolate start by reading the ingredients on the label. Short lists containing cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar, maybe some lecithin and salt are just fine. Steer away if there’s a laundry list of ingredients you don’t recognize.