Up your game with the best homemade hot chocolate

The best part about winter is hot chocolate. I think we can all agree on that.
Think of it: You’re out in the snow. Your feet are wet. Your toes ache. Your nose is running. You can’t feel your fingers. You have been shivering so long you don’t remember what it is like to not shiver.
And then you come into a house and someone hands you a steaming cup of hot chocolate. And suddenly you are suffused with happiness and warmth.
It doesn’t even have to be good hot chocolate. You have much the same reaction even if the hot chocolate came in powdered form out of one of those paper envelopes.
So think of how much better it would be to have hot chocolate that is actually homemade. And not only homemade, but the best, silkiest, most luxurious hot chocolate anyone has ever made anywhere in the world. Ever.
I happen to have the recipe for the best ever hot chocolate. Not only that, I happen to have the two recipes for the two best ever hot chocolates.
Claridge’s Rich Hot Chocolate is topped with marshmallows. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)
2 T. granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. milk, any kind
4 oz. best-quality bittersweet chocolate (60% to 70% cacao), finely chopped
Chantilly whipped cream, for serving
In a small saucepan, heat the sugar over medium heat until it melts and turns amber, without stirring; simply tilt the pan from time to time to encourage even caramelization. This should take a few minutes. Remove from the heat to cool for 1 minute.
Carefully pour in the milk, return to medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring well to dissolve (it may take the crystallized sugar a minute or two to dissolve). Reduce the heat to medium low. Whisk in the chocolate and stir until melted. Bring to a low simmer and cook, stirring continually without allowing the mixture to boil, until the hot chocolate is thickened, 5 to 8 minutes longer (You can make this in advance; cool and gently reheat before serving).
Pour into cups and let rest 5 minutes. Serve with Chantilly whipped cream, either in a bowl on the side or piped onto the surface of the hot chocolate at the last minute using a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Makes 3 servings.
(Recipe from “Tasting Paris” by Clotilde Dusoulier)
2/3 c. whipping cream, chilled
2 T. powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 T. vanilla extract
If possible, chill a medium bowl and the whisk attachment of an electric mixer (or a large bowl and a large whisk) in the refrigerator 2 hours before you begin.
In the chilled bowl, combine the whipping cream and powdered sugar. Slice the half vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the bowl, or add the vanilla extract.
If using an electric mixer, start mixing the cream on medium-low speed, then increase the speed slightly every 30 seconds or so to reach medium-high speed. If using a whisk, whisk the mixture vigorously. The cream is ready when the whisk leaves clear traces and the cream forms beautiful, firm peaks when you lift up the whisk, 4 to 5 minutes total.
Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid or a piping bag fitted with a plain or star tip, and chill for 2 hours or overnight before using. Makes 3 servings, or 1 1/2 cups.
(Adapted from “Tasting Paris” by Clotilde Dusoulier.)
7 oz. best-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
10 oz. whipping cream
4 c. (1 qt.) hot milk
Melt the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, or simply in the microwave.
In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat.
Pour 1/3 of the hot cream into the melted chocolate. Stir briskly to incorporate the cream. The chocolate might look grainy and split at this point; don’t worry. Repeat twice more, adding another 1/3 of the cream at a time. The chocolate will now be smooth and glossy.
This chocolate ganache can be used immediately or refrigerated for up to 5 days and reheated as needed (to reheat, warm gently in the microwave or in a bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water until the ganache is hot and melted).
To serve the Claridge’s way, allow each guest to mix the ganache and the hot milk to his or her own liking. Garnish with marshmallows, as desired. Makes 4 servings.
(Recipe from “Claridge’s: The Cookbook” by Martyn Nail and Meredith Erickson.)

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