This rich and creamy recipe is great for a cold winter day and perfect for chocolate lovers!
Forget packets of powdered hot chocolate, make this luxurious French hot chocolate or le chocolat chaud instead. Sometimes called “drinking chocolate” because it’s thick and creamy and can almost be eaten with a spoon, it’s served in cups rather than large mugs.
How is European Hot Chocolate Different from Other Hot Chocolate?
I was first introduced to it when I studied abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland. Our hosts brought us to a small cafe to keep us from experiencing the effects of jetlag and opted to ply us with sugar instead. European-style hot chocolate, called chocolat chaud in French and cioccolata calda in Italian, is much richer, creamier and denser than American hot chocolate. American chocolate is more similar to the consistency of broth.
European-style hot chocolate is typically made with cocoa powder or dark chocolate, milk, cream and sometimes a thickening agent like cornstarch. Paris’s famous Cafe Angelina makes their famous drinking chocolate with a combination of African cocoa from Niger, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
Key Ingredients in This Recipe
Chocolate – High quality dark chocolate is the key to achieving the perfect balance of chocolate flavor in this recipe. I like brands like Ghirardelli, Lindt and Tony’s. Milk chocolate can be overly sweet so even if you aren’t typically a big dark chocolate fan, I recommend giving it a try in this recipe since it’s balanced with other ingredients.
Heavy cream – I add heavy cream (the thick part of the milk that rises to the top due to its high fat content) to the hot chocolate to create a rich, creamy consistency.
Whole milk – Whole milk is actually comprised of only 3.25% milk fat and is referred to as “whole” because of its unaltered nutritional state. It provides the bulk of the liquid for the hot chocolate.
Brown sugar – Since the dark chocolate isn’t as sweet, it’s balanced with a touch of brown sugar.
Cornstarch – Cornstarch works as a thickening agent and helps create a smooth and velvety texture in this recipe. Whisking it with the sugar before adding it to the hot chocolate keeps lumps from forming.
How to Make French Hot Chocolate
Step 1: Heat milk and cream.
In a medium saucepan whisk together the milk and heavy cream. Heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until small bubbles form around the edges but do not let the mixture come to a boil.
Step 2: Whisk seasonings.
In a small bowl whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add to the milk mixture, whisking to combine.
Step 3: Add chocolate.
Remove the saucepan from heat and add the chocolate, stirring constantly until it’s completely melted. Return to medium-low heat if needed.
Step 4: Assemble and serve.
Divide among cups and top with whipped cream and additional chocolate shavings. Serve immediately.
Tips and Tricks for This Recipe
How to Make the Best Hot Chocolate
Use high quality ingredients. Because this recipe is made with a few simple ingredients, the quality matters. Don’t use chocolate chips or a lower quality chocolate and expect the same result.
Make sure the dairy is warm. Make sure the cream and milk mixture is heated before whisking in the chocolate.
Patience is key. Don’t try to rush heating the milk and cream or melting the chocolate. You don’t want to scald the dairy.
Don’t use water. Water creates a thin hot chocolate and takes away the rich and creamy consistency you want here. In my opinion it would be a waste of good (and expensive) chocolate!
Swaps and substitutions
To make this recipe dairy free, I recommend using a full fat coconut milk so it still has the creamy consistency of cream and whole milk.
Serve with a splash of Irish cream, a cinnamon stick, vanilla extract or garnish with a peppermint stick for a variation. I prefer to garnish it simply with fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
How to Make Homemade Whipped Cream
Add ¾ cup (180g) chilled heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high, beating until the cream forms stiff peaks, about 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
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