C is for Christmas, cheer and chocolate. The season’s festivities are heralded by equal proportions of decorations, gifts and hot chocolate. As winter rages outside, kitchens are filled with the delicious, warming aromas of rich cocoa. Secret family recipes are brought out to make that perfect cup of steaming hot chocolate that will keep the bitter cold at bay. From rich and dark to milky and sweet, whatever be your taste, there is a sinful cuppa out there for you. And yes, if you refuse to let go of your health obsessions at the end of the year, there are gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free variants that can help you stick to your resolve.
Hot chocolate recipes vary from country to country, with a variety of concoctions derived from the local history and terroir. With notes of spice, salt, chilli and even cheese and a mind boggling array of textures, each of these recipes hold potential to end your quest for the perfect dessert drink.
The thick and creamy Parisian hot chocolate
French hot chocolate is not for the weak hearted. It combines the bitter hit of whole chocolate with the luscious texture of cream to make a drink that will leave you craving for more. Known as Le Chocolat Chaud, this warm drink uses milk and heavy cream (or often just the latter). These are brought to a boil with sugar and a touch of espresso powder. Generous spoons of chocolate are added to this mix. What is finally poured into the cup, the potion is thick and decadent, so much so that you’ll need a spoon to swirl it around. This recipe is inspired by the iconic hot chocolate from Angelina tearoom in Paris, which is regarded as the best in the French capital.
The Hungarian spiced hot chocolate
Perfect for a chilly winter morning, Hungarian hot chocolate is a hot blend of spices that complement the sweetness of chocolate. Over the centuries, Hungarians have come to be identified with their obsession with paprika. Since its production was nationalised after World War II, the spice made its way into almost every dish ever made in the country, including desserts and a cup of hot chocolate. This recipe combines paprika with whole milk, white pepper and cloves. Once the spices begin leaving their essence, chopped chunks of semi-sweet chocolate are added in and whisked until a froth appears on the surface.
The Colombian sweet and savory hot chocolate
Looks can be deceptive, and a cup of Colombian hot chocolate can prove that well. The winter drink combines the sweet and salty flavours of pure dark chocolate with…cheese. Chocolate is added to milk with a touch of cinnamon, and allowed to simmer. When the liquid starts to froth, it’s poured into a cup and two cubes of cheese are added to it. The cheese melts at the bottom while the drink is stirred with a piece of bread. The northern border of Columbia is known as one of the first regions to ever produce cacao, and is today also considered the finest. The terroir lends nutty and bitter notes to the beans. The magic of the recipe lies in these notes, which are complemented with fresh quesito Colombiano cheese (which can be replaced by fresh mozzarella). This recipe will change the way you drink hot chocolate for good.
The coco-nutty hot chocolate from Philippines
In the Philippines, a pot of hot sikwate or chocolate is brewed across homes around Christmas. On ordinary days, the drink is had as a breakfast staple with bread. But if you’re drinking it like the locals, you need to have tablea— a tablet moulded from a paste of dried and roasted cacao beans. Families here make their own tablea and mix it with milk, cream and sugar. The recipe is enriched with nuts, cinnamon, coconut milk and other ingredients according to personal tastes and family recipes. Earlier tradition was to dissolve the tablet in a pot of hot water and drink it bitter. The thin concoction was perfect for enjoying the chocolate produced in the region. Today’s version is more attuned to the hot chocolate we know. Try this recipe to make your own version at home.
Iced hot chocolate from Mexico
What if we told you hot chocolate was originally served cold? The tradition of consuming cacao began on Mexican land in 500 BC and their version called Tejate is still served in Oaxaca much like the original. The beverage features cacao beans and the dried leaves of rosita de cacao, which lend sweet notes of caramel and dried fruit to the concoction. These are ground together with cornstarch and mamey seed and kneaded into a dough on which cold water is poured from a height. This dough is stirred into a thick mix and the continuous movement leads to the formation of a rich, white foam on the top. Try this recipe for yourself and serve it chilled with ice like the Mexicans.
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveller India.