So, here in southern MO, it’s rained … let me see … seven of the past nine days, or something like that. Cold, nasty, Novembery weather. Of course we were having a fall drought, as is not unusual, so I was very glad to have the first real rain. But the unpleasant weather got old fast, as it does. I don’t like coffee or tea or soda or fruit juice, but cold, rainy days sometimes make me think of hot chocolate, a temptation to which I’m happy to yield.
I don’t like hot chocolate that you can barely tell contains chocolate, and as far as that goes I’m not crazy about any thin hot chocolate. I prefer hot chocolate with luxurious body to it. The kind of thing that makes you think of trying to stand a spoon up in it, although you can’t actually do it.
As it happens, I have right here a cookbook which is not exactly a cookbook, Simple Cooking by John Thorne, published in … hmm, looks like 1980. It’s a collection of delightful essays about food, the sort of thing where the author considers one recipe and provides half a dozen variants of that recipe. Also a section that is a kitchen diary. I enjoy books like this. I’ve got an older hardcover edition, but I’ve linked the more recent Kindle edition. I would never buy a cookbook as an ebook, but for a cookbook that is primarily essays and has no pictures, maybe I would break that rule, and so might you, so that’s why I linked that version.
Anyway – you can probably see this coming – the very first essay Thorne presents in this book happens to be about hot chocolate. One of the recipes yielded the superior mug of hot chocolate I just finished drinking a few minutes ago. I will now pass that recipe along to you all. It’s probably standard in France, as it’s called French Hot Chocolate. I will provide a recipe suitable for precisely one person. No doubt it multiplies easily.
French Hot Chocolate
1 C milk
1.5 oz decent chocolate (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips)
1 egg yolk
Heat ¼ C of the milk gently with the chocolate until the chocolate is melted. Slowly whisk in the rest of the milk. Beat the egg yolk in a separate bowl. When the hot chocolate is hot and steaming, stir a few tsp into the beaten egg, then pour the egg into the rest of the hot chocolate, whisking briskly to combine and then, if you like, even more briskly until frothy.
There you go. This is, obviously, the same technique one uses to make custards and puddings and lemon curd and whatever else is thickened with egg yolks. Obviously in this case the technique produces delightfully thickened hot chocolate. I doubt I’ll ever make hot chocolate any other way now that I’ve tried this. Thorne declares quite firmly that there is no better breakfast than this kind of hot chocolate with a croissant. I find that easy to believe. The next awful, nasty, rainy, cold day – or pretty snowy day – you get, I suggest you try this kind of hot chocolate and see what you think.
To dispose of the unwanted egg white, well, I suppose an egg white omelet or something would also be a fine addition to breakfast, but personally, I just cooked the white and divided it among the dogs, who were feeling left out – they told me plainly – because they did not get to try the hot chocolate.
For those of you interested in Simple Cooking, I’ll add that Thorne also provides six other recipes for hot chocolate. Other chapters include, let me see, corn cakes, macaroni and cheese, bread and olives, stuffed grape leaves, potato soup, succotash, cheesecake … as you can see, a wide assortment. Also the long kitchen diary section and chapters called things like “In Defense of Picnics” and “Truly Awful Recipes.” This is truly a delightful book, highly recommended if you like books that fall into the intersection between cooking and reading.