For those of us curmudgeons out there who still lament the passing of summer's long, sunny days (yes, even in mid-October) and dread the quickening progression into winter's harsh climate, let me take this opportunity to remind you of one of the great virtues of the season: Cold weather is perfect weather for enjoying hot chocolate.
"Drink hot chocolate on a cold day, it's always going to taste better," advised renowned chocolatier Jacques Torres, when asked recently to share tips on how to make perfect hot chocolate. Coming from Mr. Chocolate himself, it's not exactly a tough sell — this being, after all, a subject the man knows very well.
Of course, the situational circumstances in which one drinks hot chocolate are not entirely responsible for a "perfect" experience. Certainly anyone who has tasted Mr. Torres' rendition (which has been called one of the best in the country) can attest to that. So what other precious gems of wisdom does the chocolate man have to offer on the matter?
"Use real, high-quality chocolate for the best results," he says. It may sound obvious, but it's sound advice that is echoed by another leader in the world of hot chocolate. Michael Klug, head Chocolate and Pastry Chef for L.A. Burdick, says that chocolate quality is indeed one of the keys to their knockout version. "The best quality chocolate is, to our vision, a chocolate that is made from prime cocoa beans that are of excellent initial quality, fermented and roasted to perfection, and then finished to a complex dark chocolate," he explains.
Not surprisingly, the much-lauded rendition created by chef Scott Campbell of New York's New Leaf Restaurant & Café, also calls for a heavy dose of premium chocolate. That, and a nice pour of whole milk. In fact, all three experts prefer using milk to water in their recipes.
As Mr. Torres put it, "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!" We couldn't agree more.