Thursday, January 31, 2008

DIY: Drinking Chocolate

One of the most annoying food terms that has cropped up in the past few years is drinking chocolate. We used to have a perfectly good word for chocolate, but apparently, coffee chain marketers thought people wouldn't pay $4-$8 dollars a shot for something they mostly associated with a bag of Carnation or Swiss Miss, so they came up with a new item: drinking chocolate.

I fear that this conjugation will inevitably be expanded. Will fresh-squeezed juice become drinking fruit? Will fine Scotch be dubbed drinking barley? At the cheese counter will I be forced to order some eating milk?

The saddest thing about people buying little cups of drinking chocolate, especially the overly sweet goop at Starbucks (if they even still sell that stuff; I'm not a regular), is that if you happen to own that specialty cooking tool known as a stove, you can make hot chocolate that's better than pretty much anything you pay $8 for at a cafe in Brentwood.

DIY: Hot (Drinking) Chocolate

For about 6 servings, I use 6-9 ounces of good dark chocolate.
Scharffen-Berger is my cooking chocolate of choice, and I usually use equal parts semisweet (62%) and bittersweet (70%), but use the combination and type of chocolate that suits you.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat. When it is fully melted and smooth, begin adding milk very slowly while stirring. I usually add it about a quarter-cup at a time and then mix until fully integrated (creating a shiny ganache) before adding more.

Add milk to taste. I like a super-rich drink, so I usually go about two cups of milk, but most people prefer more. Then heat until warm.

Once it's ready, take it off the heat to prevent the chocolate from seizing (separating and becoming an ugly mess).

Serve and enjoy.

Special tip: hot chocolate of this sort is really enhanced by a night in the fridge, which allows the flavors to meld. What you end up with the next morning may seem very thick, but just microwave it or reheat on the burner. In theory, making it a day ahead of time would be a good rule, but in practice, liquid chocolate is hard not to consume immediately.

I've done a lot of hot chocolate experiments, using cream, half & half, and other additives in different proportions, and I've come to believe that just milk and good chocolate makes the ideal cup.

Oh, and remember, this stuff is caffeinated!


Anonymous said...

Drinking chocolate, huh? I haven't heard that term before. Sounds pretentious to me, too.

Is there a way to make your hot chocolate (I refuse to call it drinking chocolate) without a double boiler? I've got a stove, but not a double boiler.

The chocolate I'm currently consuming in bulk is the Valrhona 85%. I swear this stuff is addictive. Very bitter.

sku said...

Hi Raven.

Valrhona is great stuff and perfectly suitable for hot chocolate, though I might use a slightly lower percentage bar than 85...but who knows.

Double boilers are better for melting chocolate, generally. They give you a smooth, silky melt without seizing. If you don't have one you can do it on a typical sauce pan over med-low heat, stirring constantly to make sure the chocolate doesn't seize.

Also, if you have two sauce pans that fit inside each other, you may be able to rig up a double boiler by putting about an inch or two of water in one and just putting the other one on top of it. After all, that's all a double boiler is.

If you try it with the 85%, let me know how it is.

Anonymous said...

I'll probably have finished the 85% by the time I pick up some milk, but I guess then I'll have an excuse to buy more, won't I?

Goddess Angel said...

Drinking Chocolate and Hot Chocolate are two different things. Drinking chocolate is made with soild chocolate shaved and put into heated milk. Hot chocolate is made with cocoa powder and hot milk or sometimes (YUCK!!!)water.

Anonymous said...

There is a big difference between hot chocolate and drinking chocolate. You can find a complete drinking chocolate information sheet and recipes at The main difference is using the cacoa part of the bean vs. the cocoa powder. You are getting the good part including the cocoa butter, which you can really tell because when heated repeatedly, you'll see the cocoa butter rise to the top. Anyways, if served right, there is an Italian Style Drinking Chocolate at that is delicious - better than any cocoa mix I've ever had at least.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the reason for the new name is that some people started to call cacao powder with milk "hot chocolate". Sometimes when you ask for hot chocolate you are given something that resembles a pudding more than a real hot chocolate.
Anyway, how exactly is it possible to add milk to the melted chocolate without seizing? I have some trouble with this. I also tried preheating the milk.

sku said...

Thanks for your comments Charon. The key is to add the milk (or cream) very slowly while stirring the chocolate. Add a bit, then stir it in, then add a bit more, and so on. I actually use cold milk, but I also do it right after melting, so the chocolate, while warm, is not bubbling hot.

Good luck!