What could be better on a cold winter day than a cup of steaming hot chocolate? History says that the Aztecs were drinking a chocolate drink when the conquistadors stumbled upon them. I like to imagine some enterprising ancient chocolatier pulling chile and cinnamon from the forest to simmer into the chocolate and give the tribe a wake-up call. While my history may be a bit fantastical, this drink will wake up the senses and warm the bones.
- Yield: 6 Servings
- 6¾ oz (190 g) 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces, plus more for shaving over the top
- 1 vanilla bean or (12 g) 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 dried pasilla chile
- One 4-in (10-cm) cinnamon stick
- 2¾ cups (640 g) plus 1 tbsp whole milk
- ½ cup (120 g) heavy cream
- 3 tbsp (60 g) corn syrup
- 1 orange grated zest
- 1 cup (150 g) Vanilla Bean Chantilly for topping
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Place the chocolate pieces in a stainless-steel or glass 2- to 3-qt (2- to 2.8-L) bowl, and set aside. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise with a paring knife, and then use the knife to scrape the seeds from the pod. Reserve both the seeds and the pod.
- Split the dried pasilla chile in half and place it on a baking sheet. Add the cinnamon stick to the baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes to release the essential oils. Keep your eyes on the spices and remove the cinnamon and chile from the oven as they start to toast; do not let them burn.
- Meanwhile, in a 2-qt (2-L) stainless-steel or enamel-coated saucepan, bring the milk, cream, and corn syrup to a boil. Add the toasted cinnamon stick and chile, reserved vanilla pod and seeds or vanilla bean paste, and orange zest to the saucepan. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for 1 hour. Once it has steeped, use a handheld blender to blend the mixture, breaking up the chile as well as the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod. This may seem crazy, but it really draws delicious flavor out of the spices. The mixture will turn a brick-orange color as the pasilla releases its color and flavor.
- Bring the mixture gently back to a quick boil and strain the milk through a fine-mesh sieve over the bowl of chocolate pieces. Whisk or use a handheld blender until the chocolate is incorporated and the mixture becomes supple and emulsified.
- Pour the hot chocolate into mugs and top with chantilly and chocolate shavings. Serve hot. Alternatively, the hot chocolate can be cooled and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Stir with a rubber spatula as you gently reheat it on the stove top.