Snow days and the month of December practically beg for a frothy cup of hot chocolate. The following recipe has a decadent Colombian and French touch.
Growing up in a Colombian household in suburban New Jersey, my parents were very keen on preserving their Paisa roots and Colombian identity. My brother and I were taught to speak Spanish (the soft, melodious kind they speak in Medellin) and were brought up on typical Colombian foods. Some I enjoyed and very much looked forward to, like my mother’s arepas (corn cakes) which she sometimes served for breakfast with scrambled eggs. Others, such as beef tongue, I abhorred. Of all the parts of a cow, I simply could not understand why you would want to eat its most repulsive organ. And oh that malodorous scent that permeated the house as it mercilessly simmered for what seemed like an eternity! It was potent enough to rouse the dead.
The delightfully sweet scent of my mother’s hot chocolate, however, is something I will always remember with fondness. She made it in a special aluminum pitcher (a chocolatera) and using a wooden tool (bolinillo or molinillo) she would whisk it until gorgeously frothy.
Traditionally, authentic Colombian hot chocolate is made with dark unsweetened chocolate from a tablet. It’s a product that Colombians are, understandably, extremely proud of, because much like their coffee, it is exceptionally pure and aromatic — and grown with a whole lot of passion! You can imagine my delight when I discovered a bar of Colombian chocolate by a brand named Hasslacher’s at a popular Dutch home and food specialty shop. Memories of Saturday mornings and the aroma of hot chocolate suddenly took hold of me, filling me with nostalgia and leaving me questioning where time really does go.
WITH A FRENCH TWIST
And today — after one of the most impressive snowfalls I’ve seen in the Netherlands — just happened to be the perfect occasion to finally treat myself to a cup. Not traditional by any means (for that I neither have the tools nor my mother’s hands), but a French version with a shot of Armagnac and a hint of gingerbread spices (pain d’épices). The result was a rich and silky drink that brings a glow to the cheeks and warms the heart. Mine, that is.
Hot Chocolate with a Colombian & French Twist
- 230ml whole milk
- 2 squares (15g) pure tablet chocolate (I used Hasslacher’s)
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- ⅛ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp pain d’épices spices
- 1 tbsp Armagnac
Place the milk and chocolate in a small saucepan and heat gently over a medium heat while whisking, until the chocolate starts to melt. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and spices and continue to whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and the drink nice and frothy. Stir in the Armagnac, give it a final whisk and serve immediately.