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How to Make Hot Chocolate

Fall Line
posted: 02/28/2006

Juergen Spagolla, executive chef at the famed Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont, grew up next-door to a chocolate factory inBludenz, a small mountain townin western Austria. It's no surprise, then, that the man feels strongly about hot chocolate. The key to a rich taste, he says, is the quality of the main ingredient. "In my eyes, he pauses, as if midsermon, "when you eat some types of chocolate, like Hershey's, you get a chocolate flavor in your mouth at the beginning, but then you lose that flavor when it goes down your throat. It's just cornstarch and sugar. It turns into emptiness—empty, watery-tasting chocolate. Especially when you mix it with water to make hot chocolate.

So begins the master's discourse on how to make the perfect cup of hot chocolate, the kind he's been serving skiers in northern New England for the last five years. For SKI, he adapted his favorite old world recipe, and there's more to it than simply good cocoa. Follow his instructions and you'll end up with a delectable winter drink that will make most versions pale in comparison. It will, we imagine, taste as it would if Spagolla had made it back home in Bludenz, on a cold afternoon with a few tired skiers traipsing in after a day in the Alps, a fire burning, and the lights of the chocolate factory flickering next door through the falling snow.[NEXT "The Directions"]Lay the Foundation
Heat the milk in the saucepan over a low flame until it's just about to boil—but don't let it boil. As it begins to simmer, empty the milk into a room-temperature drinking cup. (This will cool the milk slightly.) The eight-ounces-to-one-teaspoon ratio "is what all the grandmothers always used, and it's still the same ratio I use, says Spagolla.

Whip It Good
While the milk is heating, whip the cream using the electric beater. "Don't sweeten it. You don't need to. Beat it until it is fluffy, then set it aside.

Mix and Melt
Stir the cocoa (which should come sweetened) into the hot milk with the teaspoon until it is completely dissolved. Then stir in the hazelnut-flavored Frangelico. "In Europe, the hazelnut is the dominant flavor, like the pecan in the southern United States or walnuts in Vermont. We do like our hazelnuts.

Top It OffFinish by adding a dollop of the whipped cream and a drizzle of Chambord. Serve with the chocolate truffle on the side and a teaspoon. "Put the truffle right into the hot chocolate and it sinks down to the bottom of the cup, says Spagolla. "The heat of the drink melts the chocolate and releases the raspberry perfume of the Chambord. When finished drinking, promptly make another cup. [NEXT "Supplies"]Supplies

  • 1 small nonstick saucepan (1)
  • measuring cup (2)
  • electric beater (3)
  • medium mixing bowl (4)
  • metal teaspoon (5)
  • cup and saucer (6)

    Recipe

  • 8 ounces fresh whole milk (7)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon powdered cocoa (8)

    (Spagolla prefers Lake Champlain brand, available at lakechamplainchocolate.com. "That's what we use here at the lodge because it's a very good local product.

  • 1 1/2 liquid ounces Frangelico (9) (optional)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (10)
  • Chambord (11) (optional)
  • 1 chocolate truffle (12)
  • No water for chocolate The best hot chocolate in the world can come from a mix, but the secret to rich, full flavor is to use milk, not water.
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