Serves 2, or 4 small demitasse
2 cups half-and-half cream or 1 cup half-and-half 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 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large pinches to 1/4 teaspoon pasilla or ancho chile powder (or a combination thereof)
This seductive beverage was inspired by the one prepared in the movie Chocolat. 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 sexual energy mixed it with chiles, vanilla and spices.
In the cafés in Europe, hot chocolate is usually prepared with cream and melted chocolate rather than milk and cocoa, and served with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Here, experience the best of both worlds-this recipe is very rich-it can be made with just milk and is quite delicious. If you use bittersweet chocolate, you will need the larger amount of sugar, with semisweet use the lesser amount and then taste. Try just a few pinches of chile or about 1/8 teaspoon and then taste-and add more if desired–I like this recipe with about 1/4 teaspoon so it warms the tongue. For those who don’t the heat of chiles, cinnamon can be substituted in its place.
In a heavy-bottomed nonreactive saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, chocolate pieces, and cocoa powder. Place over medium heat and stir with a whisk. Keep stirring with a whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the chocolate is melted; do not allow the hot chocolate to boil.
Turn the heat to low and whisk so there is some froth on top. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and 1/8 teaspoon ground chile powder, let sit a minute or two, whisk, and taste for seasoning. Adjust with a little more chile if necessary and serve. Serve hot with whipped cream if desired.
The chocolate can be cooled and refrigerated and reheated the next day. I keep it in the fridge and reheat it-I like to drink it in small amounts in little demitasse cups.