Years ago, when we first moved back to Utah from California, our friends, Mark and Jane, lived in Salt Lake for the winter while Mark did his 4th year core rotations at the VA hospital. Sometime during the Christmas season we went to see the lights at Temple Square and afterward went back to their apartment a few blocks away to visit some more. To help us warm up, Jane made the best hot chocolate and, of course, I had to request the recipe.
When we moved the following spring the recipe was lost and I slowly forgot about it. In December I began working on a Holiday Family Foods cookbook (thank you Blurb and Altitude Summit!) and while sorting through my recipes I found Jane’s hot chocolate recipe again! I’ve been making it frequently ever since.
I know most people post hot chocolate recipes around Christmas but since we’re hovering around 0* here in Salt Lake and it will likely continue for a couple of months, I thought I’d share it now. Consider it something to look forward to during the doldrums of dreary winter. I’ve tried dozens of hot chocolates over the years and this one is, hands down, my favorite. It’s a bit more work than throwing some powder in a mug and pouring boiling water over it, but the taste is miles and years better so it’s worth that bit of extra effort.
Jane Jao’s Rich Hot Chocolate
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chips or chopped
- 4 oz milk chocolate, chips or chopped
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (the real stuff)
Secret #1: Use milk rather than water. Even when making hot chocolate with a powdered mix using milk rather than water makes for a richer hot chocolate.
If you have a baby in the house who is drinking whole milk I recommend using that but if all you have is 2% it works, too. I don’t recommend using 1% or (heaven forbid!) skim/non-fat milk. This is a treat! Indulge a little!
Combine the milk and half-and-half in a medium-large saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn or develop a skin. Nobody wants skin on their hot chocolate. Heat until just before the simmering point.
Secret #2: Use a mix of good chocolate. I suppose you could choose just milk or dark chocolate if you must but I find a combination of the two makes for a more complex flavor. Since chocolate is what hot chocolate is all about it’s important to make sure your chocolate is high quality. Store brand chocolate may be fine for other things but, again, this is a time to indulge a little, so go for the good stuff. Guittard and Ghirardelli make chips which are quick and easy yet still tasty (I’m using them today) but if you only have blocks of good chocolate go ahead and chop some of that up instead. 4 oz really isn’t much. Scharffenberger comes in smaller bars and is a great choice if you only want to buy a little chocolate at a time.
While the milk is heating, pull out your kitchen scale and measure out 4 oz each of semi-sweet and milk chocolate. Set aside. This is also a good time to measure out the sugar and have your vanilla extract ready to go.
Remove the pot from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir gently until the chocolate is melted. Add the sugar and vanilla and return to heat for a minute more.
Secret #3: Froth the hot chocolate before serving. It really makes all the difference in helping the hot chocolate feel like a luxurious treat. Once you’ve had frothed hot chocolate it’s difficult to go back to unfrothed.
If you have an immersion blender go ahead and froth the hot chocolate right in the pan then pour into mugs and serve.
I do not currently have an immersion blender (though I may or may not be getting one for my birthday from my mom, which I showed her at Costco and she told me to shut my eyes while she placed it in the cart) so I use the blender method. For the blender method, carefully pour the hot chocolate into the jug of a blender. Be sure the lid has a good seal. Then blend for 30-60 seconds. Pour into mugs and serve.
If you like adding whipped cream, marshmallows, or a candy cane, by all means feel free to do so. I prefer to drink my hot chocolate straight and enjoy the strength and richness of the milk and chocolate.