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Hot chocolate: It's the perfect treat for a wintry day

posted Nov 12, 2011, 12:00 PM by Myria Sawler
Photo by The Daily Gleaner/Ray Bourgeois
The chili powder isn't obvious but it gives this drink just a bit of a kick and it makes you stop and think, Umm what is that? I like it.

After a few more sips you literally can feel a buzz. A warm, fuzzy goodness. It's a little bit of heaven in a cup on a cold winter's day, when there are far too many to-dos and not enough time taken to relax and savour the moment.

So why don't we take more time to enjoy small pleasures in life, like this hot chocolate? It's a question that confounds Uwe Kuester, the owner of Chocolaterie and Patisserie Fackleman and The Schnitzel Parlour.

"I don't know. Life is short. If you have a hot chocolate it brings back energy and power for the rest of the day."

There's nothing better when you come in from the cold than sipping hot chocolate. Kuester makes his from a blend of cereal cream, two per cent milk and two ounces of real chocolate.

He cringes when he is asked about chocolate syrup and most prepackaged drink mixes. While there are some good gourmet hot chocolate mixes on the market that appeal to many, in his opinion, once you've had the real thing, there is no going back.

The sweetness of his version of this rich beverage comes solely from the chocolate.

"I prefer bittersweet chocolate. It's almost a celebration for me. If I have a hot chocolate I sit down and really enjoy it."

Calories and fat content shouldn't be a consideration when you indulge this way, he says.

If you want to try to duplicate his version of hot chocolate, start with cereal cream and two per cent milk. He will not give the exact measurements. That's his secret, he says, with a smile.

He free-pours the cream and milk into a 12-ounce mug. Then he transfers it into a non-stick saucepan and places it on the backburner of his stove.

As it starts to heat, he weighs bittersweet Belgian chocolate.

"You can use milk chocolate but this will make the hot chocolate sweeter."

Next he puts the chocolate into the liquid. He watches the mixture carefully to make sure it doesn't get scorched.

He uses a whisk to melt and blend the chocolate into the liquid. Within a few minutes the hot chocolate is ready ... almost.

Next he pours it into a pitcher and then pumps an aerating plunger into the liquid to make it foamy. Next he places a pinch of chili powder in the bottom of the mug. This gives a kick and enhances the flavour of the chocolate. This culinary trick is an ancient one.

The Aztecs mixed chili peppers with roasted, ground cocoa beans and wine. Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez discovered this beverage in Mexico.

He brought it back to Spain in 1529 and it wasn't long before the Spaniards began to heat it and sweeten it with sugar.

Closely guarded, it took another century before the recipe made it into the rest of Europe.

When the British discovered the recipe it was altered with the addition of milk.

Hot chocolate became a very popular after-dinner drink. In the 1700s chocolate houses became popular in London where people would go to enjoy hot chocolate with friends much like people do at today's coffee shops.

It wasn't until the middle of the 18th century that chocolate began to evolve past its drinkable form. By 1828, the first cocoa powder-producing machine had been developed in Holland, which generated a less acidic, processed cocoa. The new form of cocoa was easier to blend with warm milk or water.

Where would Kuester and the rest of the world be if it hadn't been for this discovery? He has no idea. Chocolate, he says, is such a blessing in his life and much-loved by other chocoholics around the world. He pours the mixture into the mug.

"What you can do if you really want to spoil yourself is to place just a spoonful of heavy whipped cream on the top."

But the heavy whipped cream this time remains in the refrigerator. He decides to place a pinch of cinnamon and sugar on the top. This drink has become the drug of choice for many chocoholics who come to visit him, he says, with a laugh.

"And it's legal."

Nadine Grasse and her husband Robert are two of those people who love to indulge in hot chocolate made this way.

"My husband is a chocoholic and he loves it more than I do. He is the real chocolate aficionado in our house but this is one thing we both agree on. It's so wonderful. I would love to have some every day but I don't dare. It's just too fattening," says Grasse. "It's a wonderful experience. It's very rich, very smooth and it makes you feel good. When we think of hot chocolate here in Canada, we think of dumping powder in a cup and adding hot water. I don't even want any of that any more. I just want this kind."

She has never tried to make it at home. It's one of those things she reserves only for special occasions when she visits the Kuesters.