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Hot Chocolate a la Chocolat

Have you seen the movie “Chocolat”?  A woman and her daughter open a mystical chocolate shop in a small French village that shakes up the rigid morality of the community. In addition to beautifully conveying the magical power of chocolate, I’m sure you will remember the scene where a scrumptious hot chocolate is served. The hot chocolate was so thick it almost looked like a chocolate pudding. Here is a recipe for that warm and hypnotic drink.  Use your personal heat meter when adding the chili water infusion—but remember a little heat never hurt anyone!

2 cups boiling water
1 chili pepper, using gloves, cut in half and remove (choose your chili based on your heat tolerance)
5 cups light cream or whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1-2 cinnamon sticks
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
3 tablets Mexican chocolate cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons sugar or honey to taste
1 tablespoon almonds or hazelnuts, ground extra-fine
Whipped cream

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add chili pepper to boiling water.  Cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup.  Remove chili pepper, strain water and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream or milk, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick until bubbles appear around the edge. Reduce heat to low; add chocolate and sugar or honey, whisking occasionally until chocolate is melted and sugar dissolves.
Turn off heat; remove vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Add chili-infused water, a little at a time, tasting to make sure the flavor isn’t too strong. If chocolate is too thick, thin with a little more milk.
Serve in small cups or glass mugs and offer ground almonds or hazelnuts and whipped cream.
Makes 4 cups.
Tips
For a hot chocolate with a little more “heat”, top with whipped cream and sprinkle a small bit of ground sweet ancho chili pepper over the whipped cream.
Mexican chocolate can be purchased at a number of online stores as well as local specialty markets specializing in international food items.   In the meantime, here are a couple of reliable resources with many great chocolates to choose from:
www.chocosphere.com www.amazon.com

photo courtesy of  whatscookinginamerica.com

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