Chocolat Chaud (French-style hot chocolate)

While I was in Paris I took the opportunity to try a cup of the world-famous chocolat chaud at Angelina’s sumptuous tearoom on Rue Rivoli. Let me just say, its fame was well-earned– the chocolate was rich, smooth, and dark, with just the right amount of sweetness. Unlike some people who have tried it, I didn’t think it tasted like a melted chocolate bar– on the contrary, it was just milky enough not to be cloying, and not too thick. Really, it was excellent, and while I have my own hot cocoa recipe for winter days, I thought it would be nice to have another version in my recipe box for special occasions.

Of course, the internet yielded a plethora of recipes, each purporting to replicate French-style hot chocolate but each one different. I decided to try a few to see which came closest to what I remembered.

Recipe 1:

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. powdered sugar

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Heat milk and cream in a saucepan over low heat until it just starts to let off whiffs of steam. When the milk is ready, stir in the chopped chocolate and the sugar and whisk until smooth, returning to heat as necessary to fully melt. Serve immediately.

chaud 1o5

I used Trader Joe’s 72% dark chocolate in this and it turned out extremely well. Rich, thick, and creamy. I think if you were to use a slightly less dark chocolate (say, between 65 and 70%) you might not need the powdered sugar.

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Recipe 1.5

3/4 cup whole milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

I wanted to see what would happen if I used an inferior-quality chocolate (but one which everyone would have in their pantries at any given moment. Follow directions set out above.

chaud 1

This version was not particularly good. Sure, it was rich and chocolaty, but it was just kind of okay. I fully admit that the reason behind the mediocrity of this one was the use of chocolate chips rather than a better-quality or at the very least higher-percentage chocolate. The Nestle semisweet chips were much too sweet, even without the powdered sugar from the original recipe (which I omitted because I knew it would be sweet already), and the stabilizers in the chips– necessary to allow them to hold their shape– made the finished product ever-so-slightly grainy, not smooth. I actually prefer my Hershey dry cocoa recipe to this one, as I can adjust the sweetness to taste.

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Recipe 2 (from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets)

1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 1/2 tbs. water
2 1/2 tbs sugar
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Heat milk, water, and sugar in a saucepan over low heat until it just starts to steam. Stir in the chocolate until smooth. With an immersion blender, blend the mixture for 1 minute. Serve immediately.
chaud 2
As you can see this recipe has proportionally less chocolate, as well as a lower-fat dairy component. I was told that the less fat there is in the dairy, the more the chocolate flavor shines through. I didn’t really get that from this recipe, possibly because of the relatively high amount of sugar in it. Also, it wasn’t really thick enough to feel like French-style hot chocolate– instead, it was more towards the “regular hot cocoa” end of the spectrum. See the thin film of liquid where the chocolate sloshed a bit in the cup? A richer drink would’ve left a thicker layer of chocolate behind to coat the surface. Chilling it did thicken it up a tiny bit, and I actually think I liked it better cold. If I were to make it again I’d reduce the sugar to 1 tbs. at most.
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ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup milk
 
1. Place the chocolate in a small saucepan. Pour a little of the boiling water over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted.
2. Add the rest of the boiling water and the milk. Heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until it is hot but not boiling. For the best flavor and texture, avoid exceeding 180° F.
3. Serve immediately or set aside and reheat gently before serving.
chaud 3
This one has the most water in it, which admittedly did bring out the chocolate flavor more, but which drastically reduced the richness of the finished drink. It was too thin for my taste. Medrich says that if you want the drink to be thicker, you can refrigerate it overnight and then reheat gently– the extra time apparently allows the chocolate particles to bind to the liquid better? I tried it, and it did seem to thicken up somewhat– enough to make it my second place recipe since it was definitely more chocolate-y than recipe #2 due to the decreased milk– but still not “special.”
Final verdict? Perhaps unsurprisingly, more fat and more chocolate make for a richer, more decadent beverage. Recipe #1 is the closest I’ve come to replicating Angelina’s chocolat chaud, and this winter will definitely find me curled up on my couch, slowly sipping a (small) cup of this and nibbling on something sweet and buttery.
Though I must say, at some point I’ll have to follow the magnificently detailed tutorial shown here to make what is apparently the ultimate cup of chocolat chaud. It looks amazing, though not something you’d make on a regular basis…
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Notes:

1. Angelina’s serves their chocolat chaud with unsweetened whipped cream. I might try that as well, or perhaps add a touch of flavored liqueur to the cream before whipping. Triple sec, anyone? Or creme de menthe?

2. FYI, at Le Grande Epicerie in Paris (my new favorite place in the world), they had chocolat chaud available by the carton, right next to the regular milk and cream, and it was actually quite good both hot and cold. Not quite up to Angelina’s standards, of course, but still miles better than normal chocolate milk.

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