Meet award-winning master pastry chef Jacques Torres – if anyone knows how to make a masterpiece out of hot chocolate, it’s him! Jacques left the restaurant world to open his own chocolate factory in Brooklyn, New York. He is now the proud owner of two factories and eight retail locations where he sells his assorted chocolates, peppermint barks, hot fudge sauce, and other treats. Torres has become quite the connoisseur of chocolate, studying various production methods world-wide. In particular, he is a fan of the traditional European production methods. Though the processes take a longer time, they produce chocolate of the quality that Jacque prefers.
Now when it comes to hot chocolate, Torres insists on using 60-70% dark chocolate of the best quality. The only ingredients he adds are milk, milk powder and cornstarch. He says that the milk powder and the starch is not necessary but it helps make the texture more velvety and enriches the drink. And how one makes the beverage is of equal importance: “Most people boil the milk, add the chocolate stir it and serve it. It’s not smooth, the flavor is not developed,” he says. He advises to boil the milk then add the chocolate and then boil it a second time. Finally, adding whipped cream on top is non-negotiable — the drink would not be the same without it.
Here is how to make the world’s best hot chocolate from scratch:
Step 1 – Make the whipped cream topping first. Pour 1 cup of heavy cream in a mixing bowl and place in the freezer. Tip: It’s best to put the cream and the bowl you plan to whip it in in the freezer together beforehand – this makes it much easier to whip and far more delicious.
Step 2 – After five minutes, remove the bowl from the freezer and vigorously whip the cream using a large whisk for several minutes.
Tip: You can try using more than one whisk at a time. You will end up with fluffier cream in a fraction of the time.
Step 3 – Stop whisking when the cream holds soft peaks (it should look like marshmallow fluff).
A “soft peak” is when you take your whisk out and the whipped cream leaves a pointed “peak” behind – and then slowly collapses. A “stiff peak” is when it retains it’s shape – you will have over-whisked if this happens.
Place the bowl in the refrigerator until you are ready to top the hot chocolate.
Step 4 – Boil 2 cups of milk on medium-high heat. (This will yield 4 servings of rich, thick hot chocolate. If you want a bit thinner, use 3 cups of milk rather than 2.)
Step 5 – Measure out 50 grams or ½ cup of milk powder and 3 grams or 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Tip: Weight measurements are always more accurate than volume.
Step 6 – Whisk the milk powder and cornstarch together in a small bowl.
Step 7 – Measure 150 grams (~3/4 cup) of coarsely chopped 60% dark chocolate (chips or from a bar)
Step 8 – When the milk comes to a boil, whisk and reduce the heat to medium (you don’t want it to bubble over).
Step 9 – Add all of the chocolate and keep whisking as you add it.
Step 10 – Continue to whisk and add the milk powder/cornstarch combination. Tip: You really need to keep whisking during this process – the chemical reaction between the ingredients while heated do better while the liquid is in motion.
Step 11 – Ensure the milk powder and cornstarch are fully dissolved.
Step 12 – Bring the hot chocolate to a boil to ensure the texture is super velvety. Remove the pot from heat as soon as it starts bubbling so it doesn’t get too thick.
Tip: It is essential to have boiled the liquid twice. Boil the milk the first time without the added powders – and then boil it again with the powders added. If you only boil it once, you won’t get the desired texture or flavors!
Chef Torres says the hot chocolate is perfect when it is nappant – that is, it is thick enough to run your finger through on the back of a spoon and the liquid won’t bleed back onto the trail where your finger was! Now that’s thick!
Step 13 – Pour the hot chocolate into four serving glasses.
Step 14 – Garnish each glass with a heaping spoonful of whipped cream.
Note: Rather than just glopping the whipped cream on – you can make it more elegant – try a quenelle.
Not sure how to do that? Try this…
Warm a spoon by running it under hot water – dry it well. Tilt the bowl of whipped cream away from you. Place the spoon on the bottom side of the bowl, pointing towards you. Drag the spoon up through the cream, towards yourself. The cream will roll over the surface of your spoon, creating a smooth, football shaped spoonful of cream. Pick the spoon up out of the cream, and gently spoon the quenelle onto the hot chocolate.
Serve your fabulous hot chocolate immediately to your guests.
And don’t worry if you didn’t get the perfect quenelle. Just add the whipped cream however you like!
…because hot chocolate just isn’t the same without whipped cream!