Give hot chocolate a little extra kick

New York TimesFebruary 18, 2014 

Hot chocolate is one of those drinks so comforting that even bad hot chocolate still tastes good. Yes, there’s less joy in the powdered stuff than in a cup of homemade, but it will still sweeten the sting of the coldest, dreariest of days.

This recipe is on the opulent end of the hot chocolate spectrum, as rich and satisfying as it gets. Heavy cream and milk mingle in the base, flavored with both bittersweet chocolate for depth and cocoa powder for tang, along with a little vanilla extract for its floral perfume.

I could have stopped there and been thrilled. But a longing for something even more complex led me to add a pinch of chili powder and a cinnamon stick, a nod to the tradition in parts of Mexico.

This hot chocolate is spicy in a gingerbread way, with a very mild chili bite. If you’re serving it to small children, you could skip the chili powder. The higher the percentage of cocoa solids in your bittersweet chocolate, the less sweet your brew will be. I used a 70 percent chocolate and it was just sweet enough.

Then enjoy your cup of comfort with a marshmallow or without.

Spicy Hot Chocolate

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste

3/8 teaspoon ancho chili powder, or to taste

1 3/4 cups whole milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Marshmallows or whipped cream, optional

WHISK together chocolate, cocoa, sugar and chili in a medium pot. Place pan over medium-low heat and whisk until chocolate begins to melt. Slowly whisk in milk, then cream. Drop in cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer.

REMOVE pot from heat. Cover pot tightly and steep 1 hour. Whisk in vanilla and taste for sweetness, adding more sugar if you like. Warm over low heat before straining and serving hot, with marshmallows or whipped cream if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

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