2 cups half-and-half cream or 1 cup whipping cream and 1 cup milk
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
2 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2-inch piece vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 mace blade or 1 to 2 large pinches ground mace
1/4 to 1 teaspoon pasilla or ancho chile powder, or chiles of choice
Rich, dark, and smooth this hot chocolate is subtly uplifted with a hint of vanilla and the spice of ground chile. (Do not use chili powder—the mix of spices with cumin and oregano. Use pure ground red chile pepper like the rich pasilla, chile negro, or ancho.) The word chocolate comes from the Aztec and Mayan “xocoatl” which translates as bitter drink. These Indians who believed it gave them power and energy mixed it with chiles, vanilla and spices. Cacao, vanilla bean, mace and chiles are all considered to be aphrodisiacs so make this luscious beverage for your valentine!
In the cafés in Europe, hot chocolate is usually prepared with melted chocolate rather than cocoa, and served with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Here, experience the best of both worlds. Try just 1/4 teaspoon of chile and then taste—and add more if desired—I like it with about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (depending on the heat of the chiles) so it warms the tongue.
You can use all whole milk and no cream—it just isn’t as rich—almond milk and soy milk also can be substituted for the milk and/or cream. Honey or maple syrup can be substituted for sugar if desired.
In a heavy-bottomed non-reactive saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, cocoa powder, ground chile powder and vanilla bean and mace blade if using them. Place over medium heat and stir with a whisk. Keep stirring with a whisk until the sugar is dissolved; do not allow the hot chocolate to boil.
Turn the heat to low and whisk so there is some froth on top. If you are using vanilla extract or ground mace rather than the whole spice, stir it in along with the chopped chocolate and whisk until the chocolate melts; let sit a minute or two. Whisk, taste for chile seasoning; adjust to taste. Serve hot with whipped cream if desired.
The chocolate can be cooled and refrigerated and reheated the next day.