One of my life’s great passions is hot chocolate. This may sound superficial – and granted, it probably is – but I love it. As in truly, beyond any shadow of doubt, absolutely and utterly love it. As a result, I like to think of myself as somewhat of a hot chocolate connoisseur.
I like to keep a mental note of my personal favourites: a sort of league table of hot chocolates, as it were. Undoubtedly the best is at Cafe Florian in Venice, where you are presented with literally hot chocolate and little else – just rich, dark melted chocolate in a delicate little cup – to be drunk in the ornate eighteenth-century tearoom. At Cafe de Flore in Paris, the milky chocolate served together with a croissant – an approximation of chocolate soup in which to dunk your morning pastry – is also rather delicious. Who could resist pastry dunking of this kind? In New York, at Stumpton – the trendy Midtown coffee house where you will undoubtedly queue for half an hour due to overwhelming popular demand – there, tattoo-ed ‘baristi’ melt chocolate directly into whatever kind of milk you like: traditional, soy, almond, the list is endless… I, for example, opted for rice milk which sweet in itself made for a delicious – and healthy – beverage when combined with pure cocoa. Very novel. In England, my all time favourite hot chocolate spot is Georgina’s, a tiny little cafe in the depths of Oxford’s covered market. With no shopfront, you have to locate its unprepossessing entrance and follow the stairway to a first floor cafe. In this shabbily bohemian establishment, the walls are adorned floor to ceiling with colourful murals - and they serve rich hot chocolate topped with marshmallows. Pure indulgence.
Always on the quest for new and exciting variations, you can imagine my excitement when we recently made a trip to Austria, the land of snowy mountains and – in my greedy mind – piping mugs of creamy hot chocolate. Ideally to be drunk in log cabins. I was not to be disappointed. Upon arrival at the quaint little town of Innsbruck we instantly made a pilgrimage to Cafe Sacher to sample their ‘schokolade’: a glass of hot milk – topped with the traditional addition of whipped cream – and served with a small ball of chocolate paste on the side. The idea being that you mix up your own drink.
Inspired, I have attempted to replicate this method at home, using a combination of Nutella and hot milk. To some considerable success. Utterly scrumptious, this combination allows for a richer beverage than the more conventional cocoa powders, and is joyfully hassle free to prepare. It is also a touch sweeter with a rather appealing nutty aftertaste. For those who revile Nutella, there are available as an apetizing alternative – I have now discovered – a whole variety of more upmarket chocolate spreads. Hurrah.
Follow the basic recipe below and try making a mug before bedtime. Rich, yet comforting – you’ll sleep like a baby…
To make Austrian hot chocolate…
Enough for one chocolate-loving person.
- a generous dollop of Nutella or decadent chocolate spread of your choosing
- 1 cup milk, or substitute if you prefer
Place a generous dollop of chocolate spread in a mug or glass and set to one side. Warm the milk in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Just before it begins to boil, remove from the heat, spoon off any skin which has formed on the surface, and pour over the chocolate. Stir vigorously to melt the chocolate. Add some whipped cream or marshmallows if you like, though it is absolutely delicious when served as is.