When I was 15, my family went to Europe. Belgium, mostly – which is where my Dad was born and lived until he was about as old as W is now. I was smitten with it – mostly the white sand Belgian beaches and Italian boys – and the warm buns and hot chocolate that was typical for breakfast totally trumped the Muffets we got back home. While the grown-ups sipped coffee and tea, we kids got mugs of warm, drinkable chocolate unlike anything I had experienced in Canada.
Because at some point someone decreed it was simpler to stir a packet of mix into boiling water to make a brownish beverage that tasted somewhat of chocolate, with or without dehydrated marshmallow bits, and that became the North American standard. I realize I’ve already gone on a rant about the stuff, listed the nasty ingredient list and how to make your own real hot cocoa mix. I’ve shared the recipe for salted peanut butter hot chocolate we chugged in a chilly park in NYC a little over a year ago. But it never hurts to get a midwinter reminder, right?
This past weekend we had the opportunity to stay in Lake Louise – and ski, even – and on Sunday morning, because six year olds neither appreciate the concept of the weekend in terms of extra sleeping hours nor do they tend to linger in bed AT ALL when their little eyes open and they realize they are in a hotel room, I found myself lying in bed watching Ina Garten. She took us on a tour of Paris, and made hot chocolate.
Really – if you’re going to drink hot chocolate, it may as well be the good stuff. And while you’re at it, stir in a spoonful of creamy peanut butter or Nutella. For reals. You’re welcome.
Real Hot Chocolate (With or Without Peanut Butter or Nutella)
Adapted from Ina Garten via Food Network
4-5 cups whole milk – Ina uses half milk, half half & half
8 oz. chocolate, chopped – Ina uses half semi-sweet, half milk chocolate
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. instant espresso or coffee powder (optional – it intensifies the chocolate, but won’t make it taste like coffee)
a few drops of vanilla (optional)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter or Nutella (or more, to taste)
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and cream until it’s steaming (don’t bring it to a boil); remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let it sit a minute, then whisk until it’s smooth. Whisk in everything else, stirring to melt the peanut butter or Nutella if you’re using it.
Serve warm. Serves 4.