A few years back I was itching to see Paris for the first time but I was on a budget, so I chose to brave the December cold in order to score a cheap flight. After I hopped off the Hop-on Hop-off bus one windy night at the Arc de Triomphe, I was determined to walk down the famous Avenue de Champs Elysees even though I was completely frozen to the core.
Through serendipity I suddenly found myself in one of the best Christmas markets in Paris. Tiny chalets twinkling with holiday lights lined the tourist-filled street, selling everything from crafts to sausages and cheese. After spotting a long queue at the chocolate chaud (hot chocolate) booth, I couldn't resist the urge to practice my French and warm up a bit.
Lucky for me the vendor had a sense of humor over my teeth-chattered delivery of "un chocolat chaud s'il vous plait", and he ladled out a steaming serving of the dark chocolate drink. As I cradled the warm paper cup in my mittened hands and inhaled the intoxicating aroma of warm chocolate, I zoned out the crowds and totally forgot that my feet were cold and damp. And after one sip I resolved to marry a French chocolatier so that I could stay here and drink this chocolate forever. My Parisian hot chocolate was worlds away from any Nestle hot cocoa with dehydrated marshmallows and water. Instead, it was the ultimate elixir for one majorly afflicted chocoholic. Velvety, thick, and chocolaty, it's just like sipping a warm melted bar of chocolate.
Whether it's called Parisian, Belgian, or European, this style of hot chocolate has one thing in common: high quality chocolate. And lots of it. To save yourself from a chocolate overdose, this death-by-chocolate drink is best not served in a colossal mug, but rather in a tiny espresso cup (you can always have seconds).
To replicate the rich chocolat chaud that I had in Paris, I use a good bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder, and my secret ingredient: milk chocolate. After experimenting with numerous chocolate combinations, It wasn't until I added milk chocolate to the mix that I finally tasted the creamy dairy-chocolate flavor that I remembered. Milk chocolate also adds an wonderful body to the hot chocolate so that it feels incredibly rich even when it's made with just milk. And it may seem odd, but I always add a pinch of salt in my hot chocolate to get the most out of the chocolate flavor. Try it!
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About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore and is currently at work constructing her new blog, "ShopHouseCook".