Sunday, December 5, 2010

Italian Hot Cocoa

The snow is snowin', the wind is blowin', but I can weather the storm. What do I care if icicles form? I've got hot cocoa to keep me warm!

I took some liberties with that Christmas song. Forgive me. Don't know it? It's "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" by Billie Holiday and it happens to be one of my favorites this time of year.

I meant what I said though. I don't give one iota that it's dumping snow right now. You know why? Because I am home, nestled it it's warmth and love, slowly sipping thick and rich homemade cocoa topped with really sweet, softly whipped cream. How's that for adjective overload? Oh, I forgot to mention the best part, which is it's Italian. Everything is more fabulous with an accent.

Italians like a very dense cocoa and thicken it with cornstarch so that it attains an almost puddinglike or chocolate sauce consistency. More chocolate sauce than pudding, but you get the point. For a thinner version, add more milk, water, or half and half or mix in some strong brewed coffee or espresso.

Iv'e heard of the famous hot chocolate that you get in Paris. It's famous for the very same reason as the Italian, namely being thick and rich. The French hot chocolate you get is mostly milk and real chocolate that's been melted into it. The real chocolate (as opposed to a cocoa powder) makes it thick. American hot chocolate is mostly cocoa powder, some sugar and water or milk and very thin. the Italians, like I mentioned above prefer to thicken with cornstarch and it makes for a very smooth and velvety drink. Think decadent.

Italian Hot Cocoa
adapted from "The Joy Of Cooking"

Makes 2 1/2 cups. Serves 2

Stir together in a medium, heavy saucepan:
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot

Stir in thoroughly and slowly while whisking and set over medium low heat:
1 cup water
1 cup whole milk

Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until the mixture is thickened and coats a spoon, about 10 minutes. Stir in:
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Top each serving with:
Very sweet whipped cream

VARIATION: For and Italian Mocha, prepare Italian Hot Cocoa above, substituting 1 cup strong brewed coffee, or 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup espresso, for the water.

Make sure to cook this until it thickens up properly. It should take most of the 10 minutes to do so. In-between stirrings, a"skin" might form on top but don't worry, it will mix together easily. This is not so thick that it feels wrong drinking it. I once had some "chocolate soup" and it was too thick for my liking. This is just thick enough. Bellisimo!