Do you carry dark chocolate in your purse in case of emergencies? Do you fall for the chocolate that’s placed so dangerously beside the register every time you check out at Trader Joe’s? Is your hand rooting through your top desk drawer for a piece as you read this? If yes, I made this French Hot Chocolate just for you. Also, we are kindred spirits.
Packets of store-bought hot chocolate mix were a fixture in our home growing up and eventually followed me to college, where I “cooked” steaming mugs for friends by boiling water in my fire hazard of a hotpot.
It didn’t matter which hot chocolate brands I tried. My hot chocolate attempts always ended the same way: me, poking at stubborn lumps of sugary cocoa floating on top of milky water, attempting to get the mix to dissolve smoothly. If you’ve used a hot chocolate powder, you know the struggle.
While those instant packets still hold a nostalgic place in my heart, it wasn’t until I visited Paris that I understood the true meaning of the words hot chocolate—emphasis on the chocolate, please.
Forget the powders, the mixes, the annoying little clumps.
What we have in our mugs today is something else entirely. This is a thick drinking chocolate recipe that will make you feel as if you have been transported to a French café!
What Is French Hot Chocolate?
French hot chocolate is not for the casual chocolate dabbler, the chocolate shy, or anyone with an aversion to heavy cream. It’s made with rich, dark European chocolate. This hot chocolate recipe is for true chocolate lovers! It’s rich and creamy and will transport your taste buds to a French bistro.
French hot chocolate is deep, dark, and utterly magnificent. I will never forget my first sip. I was 16 and in Europe for the first time, visiting my Uncle R.D. He took me to the celebrated Café Angelina in Paris, famous world wide for its decadent hot chocolate. My chocolate-loving heart never quite recovered, and I’ve been lovestruck since.
I ordered Cafe Angelina’s le chocolat chaud, expecting something similar to the hot chocolate packets of my youth. Oh my, I could not have been more mistaken. What arrived was not a milky brown, mildly chocolatey broth but a thick, gloriously rich mug of steaming chocolate velvet. It was bittersweet and so thick, I suspected the chef had simply melted a bar of the finest quality Parisian chocolate directly into my mug.
After developing this recipe, I’m reasonably certain he did.
I miss and think of France—where I eventually went on to study abroad and later returned for a month—often, but some days are more nostalgic than others. I was having a particularly sentimental afternoon on a chilly day, and since I didn’t think it appropriate to fix myself an entire batch of Slow Cooker Spiced Wine, a mug of steaming French hot chocolate proved to be the perfect remedy to take me back to Paris.
I searched the web for Café Angelina’s hot chocolate recipe, combined what I read with my own memories of it, and I must say, I think this French hot chocolate recipe is pretty darn close.
My search for how to make the perfect European hot chocolate recipe lead me down some interesting Wiki rabbit holes as well. Here’s what I learned:
How to Make Real Hot Chocolate
- You must use real, good-quality chocolate bars. Homemade hot chocolate recipes contain very few ingredients, and the largest ingredient is chocolate, so be picky.
Use dark or bittersweet chocolate. Milk chocolate will be too sweet, at least for most European tastebuds.
- ^^That said, this is YOUR hot chocolate. If you prefer sweet and want to go with milk, I say, cheers!
- I have the most success with a blend of whole milk and cream. Some recipes call for almost entirely cream, but that was a bit much for me. I recommend a blend of the two.
- Do not use water. This might be OK for a packet mix in a pinch, but we are in the business of REAL hot chocolate today, and real hot chocolate needs milk.
- Need dairy-free hot chocolate? I recommend full-fat coconut milk for a similar experience. I haven’t tried this recipe with dairy-free chocolate bars yet, so I’m afraid I can’t say how that would work out. (But if you do try, I’d love to hear how it goes!)
How to Thicken Hot Chocolate
- This one is easy. WITH MORE CHOCOLATE. This recipe will feel like you are using a ridiculous amount of chopped chocolate, but trust me and go with it. You will not be sorry.
How Hot Chocolate Was Invented + A Brief French Hot Chocolate History
Not directly related, but I stumbled upon it and found it interesting, so here you go! This is a super abbreviated version, but hopefully it gives you an idea.
- As early as 500 BC, Mayans in Mexico were drinking chocolate made from ground-up cocoa seeds mixed with water, cornmeal, and chili peppers. It was cold, bitter, and very different from the French hot chocolate we are making today.
In the early 1500s, the Spanish explorer Cortez brought cocoa beans and chocolate drink-making gear to Europe, where it was adopted by the Spanish upper class. (Yep. It was Spanish hot chocolate before it was French hot chocolate.)
- People started to like drinking chocolate better when served hot, sweetened, and without the chili peppers.
In the early 1600s, Louis XIII’s wife brings hot chocolate to France, where it eventually became quite the hit at Versailles. The kings and queens were INTO IT. Can you blame them?
- Enter: Industrial Revolution. The drink becomes more accessible and chocolate more affordable. Hot chocolate for all!
- A 16-year-old girl goes to Paris. She falls in love with le chocolat chaud (<—French hot chocolate translation). Years later, she posts a French hot chocolate recipe on an American food blog.
And here we are today.
This French hot chocolate recipe has the richness and consistency of Angelina’s chocolat chaud, though I remember Angelina’s being even more intensely chocolate flavored, to the extent that it almost wasn’t sweet, a situation the restaurant resolved by serving its hot chocolate with a giant pot of sweetened whipped cream to stir into it.
I find that American chocolate in general is sweeter than many of its European counterparts, so to balance it out, I added a touch of instant espresso powder to my version of the recipe. If you prefer a sweeter hot chocolate, feel free to omit it.
This French hot chocolate recipe will yield two aggressively sized mugs of the deepest, darkest drinking chocolate for two voracious chocolate lovers or smaller mugs for a group of three or four.
For a giant (not at all light batch), check out Sally’s Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate. I made it for a friend’s birthday, and it tasted wonderfully rich like this French Hot Chocolate, though the recipe is noticeably sweeter. If you’d like a super dark version, you could try scaling back on the sugar.
But for the darkest drinking chocolate in all its luscious, unabashed, truffle-like glory, this French Hot Chocolate has no equal.
French Hot Chocolate
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the whole milk, heavy cream, powdered sugar, and espresso powder until small bubbles appear around the edges. Do not allow the mixture to boil.
- Remove from saucepan from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until melted, returning the sauce to low heat if needed for the chocolate to melt completely. Serve warm, topped with lots of whipped cream.
- *Choose the best quality chocolate you can, as the flavor really carries the drink. I love Guittard for a splurge, Ghirardelli, or Godiva, but the Trader Joe's Pound Plus 72% bar is quite good too. I do not recommend chocolate chips, as they contain stabilizers and do not melt as well.
- Leftover French hot chocolate can be cooled to room temperature, then refrigerated in an airtight container (empty mason or jam jars work particularly well). Reheat gently the in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat.
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