On this point, Mr. Torres is firm and adamant. He recommends using real, high-quality chocolate that has been conched for a long time (a finishing process by which unpleasant flavors and acidity are removed). Mr. Klug, too, is quick to state that using the best quality chocolate is of the utmost importance. To him, that means using premium cocoa beans that have been perfectly fermented, roasted, and then finished into a complex dark chocolate. "Most of the chocolate we use is in the mid-60 to 70 percent dark chocolate range," he says, also adding that they favor beans from South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean and Madagascar.
"Cocoa powder alone," Mr. Klug says, "falls short and can leave a grainy texture in the mouth." He notes that shaved chocolate melts more quickly in hot milk, allowing for a better and smoother incorporation of ingredients. It's a point that also falls in line with Mr. Torres' hot chocolate-making philosophy. Mr. Campbell, for his part, opts for using both and combining a small amount of high-quality cocoa powder with the hot milk, then adding more shaved chocolate to that.
No watered-down hot chocolate for these experts — all three prefer using milk. Says Mr. Torres, "I'm a traditional guy, I like to use milk. If I'm going to drink a hot chocolate that I already know has a lot of calories, I'm going to make it damn good. I don't want to spend calories to get fat and not get pleasure out of it!"
Mr. Klug offers an interesting and unique piece of advice when it comes to heating the milk: Steam it. "It brings a much nicer texture to the drink. It's rich but it also feels aerated in a pleasant way."
To achieve the best consistency, Mr. Torres recommends heating the milk, pouring it over the chocolate, mixing, and then pouring the mixture back into a pot and heating it on the stove until it starts to boil again. "That way you get the bonding that gives it a better, nicer consistency."
You know how people say soup often tastes better the next day? Well, that philosophy might also be able to be applied to hot chocolate. Mr. Torres says there's nothing wrong with making a batch of hot chocolate, refrigerating it, and reheating it to enjoy it the next day. "It might be better, the flavor is going to infuse. Hot chocolate is darker the next day because it infuses more."
Want to add an extra flavor to your batch to make it just a touch more special? Mr. Torres recommends adding a pinch of ground ancho chile or chipotle chile. Other flavors he enjoys pairing with chocolate include orange, peanut butter, banana, and caramel.