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'Tis the Season...
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...for hot, chocolatey drinks. Outside, it's gray and blustery, with spatterings of icy rain, and inside, our water heater has taken to shutting itself down at least twice a day, its flame blown out by the gusting wind that blows through the cracks in our front door and sweeps through our foyer. So inside, hot chocolate has become not just a decadent treat but a Lifestyle. ;) And in honor of the season, I thought I'd share my new super-easy and cheap recipe for hot chocolate that tastes like something I'd find in a gourmet chocolate café.

Until a couple of years ago, whenever I made hot chocolate, I made it the traditional (well, for me, anyway) way: one scoop of cocoa powder to two scoops of sugar, mixed into hot milk. I always liked it, but it was too sickly-sweet for me to drink often. Then Patrick and I went to Edinburgh, discovered Plaisir du Chocolat, and Everything Changed. I took my first sip of their rich, dark chocolate - almost no sugar involved - and after a moment of shock (wait! it's not sweet!), my tastebuds all dissolved into sheer, intoxicating bliss. We went back to Plaisir du Chocolat at least once a day for every day of our Edinburgh trip. About a month after we left, I started ordering Plaisir du Chocolat's own hot chocolate drops to be dissolved in hot milk (their Tanzanian hot chocolate is my absolute favorite - it's just lusciously good). Unfortunately, this method had a serious downside - it's expensive, so I couldn't do it often. I tried compromising by buying cans of Charbonnel et Walker hot chocolate shavings, which are cheaper than Plaisir du Chocolat, but unfortunately, it's just not as good - so drinking my moderately expensive Charbonnel et Walker chocolates felt like a real let-down (and not a cheap one, either).

Then my mom told me that the wonderful hot chocolate she'd bought at a gourmet chocolate café in Germany had come in the shape of bars, not drops or shavings. And lightning struck. At every shop in town - and most conveniently at the student union shop near where Patrick works - you can buy lovely big bars of dark chocolate cheaply. We'd always bought and liked the Divine dark chocolate bars, which are 70% dark chocolate. And after a nervous experiment, with fingers crossed, I discovered: they're not only good for eating the traditional way - they make incredible hot chocolate! And whereas the Plaisir du Chocolat mix cost about £5 for the equivalent of 3 cups of hot chocolate, a £1.20 bar of Divine dark chocolate makes 4 hot chocolates.

So here's my recipe:
-Pour 1 drinking-cup-full of milk (I use a regular-sized china tea cup to measure, rather than any measuring scoop - if you want to make a big mug-full of hot chocolate, make sure to increase the chocolate proportionally) into a small saucepan. Heat milk slowly over the oven, stirring, until it looks almost, but not quite, ready to boil.
-Turn down the heat to the lowest possible. (You need the heat to stay on for the chocolate to melt properly, but actually boiling the milk would be BAD.)
-Break off about 25g of a 70% dark chocolate bar into small pieces (or, 1/4 of a large, 100g bar; with Divine dark chocolate, this comes to 6 small squares of chocolate).
-Stir in the small pieces of dark chocolate, keeping the heat on lowest-possible, until the chocolate is all melted and mixed through. (You'll still be able to see dark specks of chocolate, but don't worry about these as long as the milk has turned dark and chocolatey.)
-Pour from pan into cup.
-Enjoy! :)

And for a laugh, while you're drinking your hot chocolate, check out these ads from the 1950s and '60s and feel very, very glad that we now live in an era where these are considered hilariously un-thinkable! (To the point where Patrick wondered whether they were even real or had just been made up by the paper. Sadly, they were real.) Thank God for the feminist movements!

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