Saturday, 9 January 2010

How to make perfectly thick hot chocolate

This is a seriously soothing, sinfully thick drink. In fact, it's essentially chocolate sauce or pudding in a cup. The longer it stands for the thicker it gets, so have a teaspoon handy to finish off the final stretch. Make sure you're prepared to feel seriously relaxed and contented after drinking this. It's going to feel like a whole lot of indulgence, and its wasted on a bad mood.

1) Start with a heaped teaspoon of cornflour - don't be tempted to heap it too much, just imagine how far it could heap if it were sugar and stop there. Throw it in the pan and look at the pretty shape the powder makes as it scatters. Add a level teaspoon of granulated sugar. You have to use cornflour and sugar. You can't use plain flour, and you can't cut out the sugar. Plain flour is shit, it takes longer to thicken and it gives the drink a subtle floury flavour. The sugar is there not to sweeten, but to prevent too many lumps from forming. It stops the starch from forming longer strings, I think.

2) Now add a sliver of milk. Just enough to dissolve. Mix with a wooden spoon, bashing any little heaps of cornflour like a whack-a-mole. Add more milk. If you want to have a full cup at the end you have to add more milk than is required to fill the cup normally, as the mixture reduces by about 25% as it boils.

3) Mix and put on the hob to boil. Until it boils, nothing of any consequence will happen, so take the chance to make sure you have your cup and sieve to hand, right next to the pan. Then put your chocolate in. There's no real advantage to doing it now rather than later except that you have nothing better to do right now. I use six pieces of chocolate per cup. I like to throw them in as one big lump and move the lump around, watching the milk go chocolatey in swirly shapes and sensing the gradual build-up of molten chocolate aroma.

Note: Green and Black's cooking chocolate, while delicious, doesn't make swirly shapes :(

4) Once it starts to boil, stir like crazy. Scrape the bottom of the pan because otherwise things are going to stick. Keep it bubbling until the sound of the bubbles starts to sound a bit more like a crackle than a pop. That means its thick enough. Take it off the heat.

5) You now have a five-second window to move the mixture from the pan, through the sieve, into the cup before it turns too thick to get through the sieve. Although the sugar eliminates most lumps there are probably three or four little brown lumps in there anyway, because your pan isn't as good as it used to be.

6) When you have finally forced that last bit of goo through the sieve, add a tablespoon of double cream. I find that the double cream actually takes the edge off how thick and rich the drink is, and provides a welcome extra flavour that isn't cocoa or sugar.

Now, take the cup to your favourite chair and do nothing other than drink and make happy little sighing noises.

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