To chase away that nip in the air, try warming your insides with this hot, chocolaty treat. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, note that there is a difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate: Hot cocoa is typically just water or milk and cocoa powder, while, made from chocolate bars melted into cream, hot chocolate is a rich and decadent drink. Here is an intoxicating twist on our favorite winter warmer; flavored with two varieties of chestnuts and triple chocolate, this is a creamy, cozy sip — the kind of food you can cuddle up to (and we suspect that few adults would object to sneaking in a splash of brandy or cognac.)
For the hot chocolate:
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
4 peeled chestnuts (fresh, canned or frozen may be used)
zest of 1/2 orange
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
4 ounces milk chocolate
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup sweetened chestnut cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons brandy or cognac (optional), or to taste
For the chestnut whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sweetened chestnut cream
Handheld immersion blender
Handheld or standing electric mixer
Liquid measuring cup
Non-reactive metal saucepan
Prepare the hot chocolate:
Combine the milk, heavy cream, chestnuts, vanilla bean and orange zest in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let steep for about 15 minutes, until the chestnuts start breaking down and become softer.
Remove the vanilla bean, and using a handheld immersion blender, purée and then strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Return the liquid to the saucepan and bring back to a simmer over medium heat.
Meanwhile, place the chocolates in a large bowl. Pour the boiled liquid over the chocolate, let sit for one minute, and whisk to combine. Add salt and whisk in the chestnut purée and brandy or cognac, if desired. Purée with a handheld blender for a smoother texture.
Prepare the chestnut whipped cream:
Whip 1 cup heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Whip 2 tablespoons sweetened chestnut purée in an electric mixture until light. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the chestnut purée in three additions until combined.
[Chef’s Note: If you do not have a handheld blender, let the mixture cool slightly and purée in a blender.]
Serve the hot chocolate in mugs topped with a dollop of whipped cream. The hot chocolate can be made ahead, if desired. Cool completely and refrigerate. When ready to serve, heat it gently in a saucepan over low heat or in intervals in the microwave.
You can substitute all milk or all cream depending upon how rich and creamy you want the hot chocolate to be. Add a cinnamon stick or pinch of chipotle pepper to the simmering liquid for an adventurous surprise!
Recipe by Monica Glass