John’s Classic Drinking Chocolate
2 1/2 cups whole milk
4 ounces SCHARFFEN BERGER 99% Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it is hot to the touch. Whisk in the chocolate and sugar and continue whisking for 1 to 2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the vanilla and the cinnamon and cayenne, if using. Reduce the heat to low. The chocolate may be made ahead; it will thicken as it sits.
Serve in demitasse cups or mugs depending on desired portion.
Note: For a lighter, airy consistency, remove the hot chocolate from the heat and mix with a hand blender on low speed just before serving. Or make ahead and use the frother of an espresso machine to reheat it. Individual servings can also be topped with frothed milk.
Pairs Well With
Everywhere I go—the bookstore, the farmers’ market, every single cocktail party—people ask me, “What’s your favorite dessert?” I hate the question, because people expect me to say a mile-high chocolate cake or something really ornate. Instead, I like to make really good, thick hot chocolate and serve it at the end of a meal. I use my favorite demitasse cups, and place a few slices of a perfect pear or two pieces of shortbread on the plate next to the cup. That’s my favorite dessert. During the holidays, I add rum or brandy and serve it instead of eggnog.
Personally, I’m not a fan of cinnamon or other spices in hot chocolate because I think it diverts attention from the chocolate’s flavor, but for an authentic Mexican style chocolate, add the cinnamon and cayenne.
This can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated, but if you use the spices, keep in mind their flavor intensifies over time. Serves 6 to 12.