One of the indisputable perks of long, bone-chilling winter days is the excuse to curl up with a cup of hot chocolate that warms both the body and soul. Rich in history, hot chocolate dates back to circa 500 BC—long before the existence of cozy couches, fireplaces, and bay windows overlooking the winter wonderland outside. The Olmec civilization was the first to discover cacao, followed by the Mayans, who apparently agreed with their predecessors’ good taste. According to a 2002 report published in the journal Nature, Mayans drank thick, frothy concoctions of the dark liquid in tea cups.
Europeans got their first sip of hot chocolate when conquistador Hernando Cortés brought the ingredients and technique from Mexico to Spain during the 16th century. Spaniards added sugar to the mix to lessen the drink’s bitter taste. Some two hundred years later, the British improved upon the recipe once again by adding milk.
Here’s a sinfully sweet recipe from the famous hairless man with an earring who has decidedly taken on the task of “creating a new chocolate culture,” as his website states. Oded “Max” Brenner is the founder of “Chocolate by the Bald Man,” a restaurant chain that serves the sweet stuff in a variety of inventive and delicious ways, including seven variations of hot chocolate. If you haven’t yet visited one his 30+ restaurant locations, including New York, Philly, Boston (new this winter), and Vegas (coming this summer), you’ve got to try this recipe at home.
MAX BRENNER’S CLASSIC HOT CHOCOLATE
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 1/2 cups milk, divided
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 ounces (2 chocolate bars) semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup milk, boiled
Sprinkle the cornstarch over 1/2 cup of the milk in a small bowl and whisk to dissolve. Add the sugar and egg yolks and whisk well.
In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over low heat, bring the remaining 2 cups of the milk and the vanilla bean just to a simmer. Remove the bean, scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk, and discard the bean. Gradually whisk the egg yolk mixture into the milk.
Cook, whisking often, until the sauce comes to a full boil, about 3 minutes. If using vanilla extract, stir it in now. Strain through a wire sieve into a bowl. Serve warm.
Add to the vanilla cream the chopped chocolate chunks and a boiled cup of milk. Mix until smooth. Any flavor can be added- raspberry, cinnamon, holiday ginger spice, marshmallows. The semi-sweet chocolate can be substituted with milk or white chocolate.
[Recipe and photography courtesy of Max Brenner.]
DID YOU KNOW?
What’s the difference between chocolate and cocoa?
Roasted beans are softened into a paste and mixed with cane sugar to form chocolate, whereas cocoa is pulverized and the cocoa butter is extracted leaving a powder that contains less fat.