Nigel Slater's Chicken and Rice Salad
In My Kitchen

Chloe Doutre-Roussel's Spicy Hot Chocolate


My photography skills are quite limited when it comes to brownish liquids in white mugs, it seems. Trust me when I tell you that this tasted much, much better than it looks. Well, duh. Could a vanilla bean and chopped bittersweet chocolate and milk and cream and spunky spices and two spoonfuls of sugar all melted together into a warm, frothy drink really taste bad?

Of course not. But the real question here is, can I actually devote an entire post to a mug of hot chocolate? Has NaBloPoMo gotten me to sink this low?

Chloe Doutre-Roussel, the chocolate buyer for Fortnum & Mason and author of The Chocolate Connoisseur, was profiled in the New York Times Magazine last year as a choco-dependente (sadly, as hard as I try, moi aussi). Alongside her profile was a recipe for spiced hot chocolate (ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and... licorice powder? Optional, thank God).

Last weekend, as a soothing cap to the Sunday evening blues, I made Doutre-Roussel's recipe (well, actually, it's her friend Ingrid's, but whatever). The recipe is a bit puzzling, what with the addition of two spoonfuls of filtered water and the 45-minute steepage time and the fact that a pinch of black pepper diluted in all that liquid does not for spicy hot chocolate make (spiced, maybe. Spicy? No).

But still, like I said before, melt all those tasty things together and you're likely to end up with something you wouldn't kick out of bed. (Which, incidentally, is where we drank our hot chocolate. Too much information?) The verdict, however, is that this really wasn't worth the trouble. Just go to City Bakery or to Paris for hot chocolate that will knock your socks off.

And now that I have entirely outdone myself with ravishing eloquence and (not so) rhetorical questioning, I leave you. Oh right, until tomorrow. Sob. Are you sick of me yet?

Spiced Hot Chocolate

Serves 4

1/2 vanilla bean
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons mineral or filtered water
1 pinch ground ginger
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch black pepper
1 pinch licorice powder (optional)
3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 teaspoons natural cocoa powder
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and place the seeds and pod in a medium saucepan. Add the milk, water and spices and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk in the chocolate and cocoa powder until melted. Add the sugar to taste and then the cream. Let cool for 45 minutes.

2. To serve, remove the vanilla bean, return to the stove, and whisk over low heat until frothy and warm.