French hot chocolate, or chocolat chaud, is thick and ultra-chocolaty and easier to make than you might think. Once you try it, you'll never go back to a powdered mix again!
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Um, why have I not made French-style hot chocolate at home before? Honestly, because I thought there was some sort of mystery to it. I thought it was complicated. It had to be, right? Right???
The first time I had chocolat chaud was at Ladurée in Paris several years ago. We sat down in the "salon de thé" at the location on Place Madeleine that originally opened in 1862. I think the area where we sat is now a private room, it was so beautiful, with original frescoes on the walls and ceiling. I ordered a pastry with rose cream (why can't we get that here? soooo good) and a chocolat chaud.
I'd heard about this thick, chocolaty, dreamy Parisian drink, but I had no idea that it would be so amazing. How did hot chocolate come from this magnificence, but then turn into the not-worth-burning-your-tongue-over, mostly water stuff we drink in the States?
I pity the poor French child who comes to visit us here and is handed a cup of what is basically brown hot water. Can you imagine the disappointment and bewilderment? Poor thing.
Our recent trip to Paris just before Christmas gave me another chance to revel in the glory that is chocolat chaud in its native environs. My mom and I went to La Chocolaterie Cyril Lignac in the St. Germain de Pres neighborhood.
I had read about this place in The New Paris by Lindsey Tramuta. If you're going to Paris, or just love the city, I highly recommend this book. She looks at the new wave of creators in restaurants, bakeries, coffee bars, mixology, fashion, design and more, who are transforming the city. She has a whole chapter on chocolate!
On this particular day, it was pouring down rain, and a perfect day for hot chocolate. Although honestly, I would have had one regardless of the weather. Even if it was 80 degrees outside.
This stuff is thick, and very rich, so you generally aren't getting a giant serving. Maybe like, a coffee cup in a fancy hotel-sized serving. But this chocolat chaud came out and it was HUGE. A full large coffee mug full of it.
Probably 12-14 ounces? Maybe 16 ounces? I was shocked. It was like a challenge had been thrown down. And I accepted. And I prevailed. And I needed a walk after.
But somehow, as always happens when I have super-blogging intentions, I didn't take a picture of it??????? But here's the chocolate-hazelnut tart I had.
And frankly, I'm ashamed of myself for not finding out how to make French-style hot chocolate at home sooner. You know how many ingredients it has?
Whole milk and very good chocolate.
Like everything French, it's about simplicity and quality. I'm sure they think we're nuts by trying to make things "easier" and "more convenient" with our packets full of fake stuff.
What could be easier or more convenient than heating up some milk on the stove?
So now it's your turn.
More gluten-free chocolate recipes:
French Hot Chocolate (Chocolat Chaud)
Adapted from David Lebovitz
This recipe makes two very generous, American-sized servings
(or four reasonably-sized French ones)
Isn't this kitchen scale cute?
So, I know not all of you have a kitchen scale. And I tried to figure out what the amount of chocolate would be if you used measuring cups instead. But here's the deal: If you're using chocolate chips, different brands are different sizes; if you're chopping up some dark chocolate yourself, well, who knows what kind of chunk-sizes you'll come up with?
So, I do recommend getting a scale. Once you have one, you'll find more uses for it than you think. They don't take up much space and they aren't that expensive. I love my Escali Primo Digital Scale. It comes in all kinds of colors. Our kitchen ceiling is orange, so I picked this one to match.
If you don't have a scale, just eyeball it and err on the side of a little less, then you can always taste it and add more chocolate if you need to.
How to make French hot chocolate:
In a medium saucepan, warm the milk over low heat.
Remove from heat, then add the chocolate and whisk until melted and fully incorporated.
Return the sauce pan to the stove and bring to a low boil. Stir constantly for 2-3 minutes until mixture thickens.
Some kind of magic happens in the pan during this part of the process. I can't explain how it all of a sudden gets so thick and rich. But we shouldn't question these things. Just let it be magic and leave it at that.
Allow to cool slightly, then pour into cups.
If desired, add a few flecks of coarse salt on top.
Now be careful - this is hot and it's THICK. So that means burning your tongue or your throat is easy to do. So sip slowly and enjoy it. Like the French do.
More French recipes
- Chocolate Mousse
- Chicken Thighs with Beaujolais and Dried Plums
- Creamy Pasta with Bacon and Comté Cheese
French Hot Chocolate (Chocolat Chaud)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 5 oz high-quality bittersweet chocolate
- In a medium saucepan, warm the milk over low heat.
- Remove from heat, then add the chocolate and whisk until melted and fully incorporated.
- Return the sauce pan to the stove and bring to a low boil. Stir constantly for 2-3 minutes until mixture thickens.Some kind of magic happens in the pan during this part of the process. I can’t explain how it all of a sudden gets so thick and rich. But we shouldn’t question these things. Just let it be magic and leave it at that.
- Allow to cool slightly, then pour into cups. If desired, add a few flecks of coarse salt on top.
- Now be careful – this is hot and it’s THICK. So that means burning your tongue or your throat is easy to do. So sip slowly and enjoy it.
- This recipe is adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz. If you plan to visit Paris, I highly recommend it. It's an indispensable guide to Parisian customs and all of its idiosyncrasies.
- Another must-have book is The New Paris by Lindsey Tramuta. I found all of the amazing chocolate shops featured in this story in her book, along with all of the hot new restaurants, bars, patisseries, and retail shops.