It feels like autumn lasted long enough to get Halloween out of the way and then: BAM! Hello winter! What makes it worse is that Christmas adverts, merchandise and even trees have started popping up all over the show. There's still a month to go people.
I'm not a Scrooge, I enjoy Christmas as much as the next person. Maybe even more. But when Christmas is over, there are two long, cold months ahead with very little to look forward to so why not practice for that in November? There is plenty to do to make the cold bearable. And yes, most of it involves food. Well, for me anyway. I'm not a fitness nut so things like marathons and triathlons are not in my big books I'm afraid.
But chocolate, that is definitely in my books. Especially if it's melted and warm and creamy and drinkable. On a cold night, what's not to love about a good, rich hot chocolate? Last year we started a tradition of having one after Midnight Mass. In Britain, it's unfortunately very rare to find a Catholic Parish that will celebrate Midnight Mass at midnight. Most will have a service at 8pm or so, allowing for children to get early bedtimes. Personally I like a midnight service. And any parent will be glad of their children having a lie in on Christmas morning.
Anyway, I digress. My winter guilty pleasure is hot chocolate. Whether I get one on the way home from work, have one while reading in a cafe or make one as an after dinner treat, it is the comfort that adds the extra winter padding to my waistline. I find that it's even more delicious when I make it at home. One of those rare occasions when having some one else make it doesn't make it taste better. Mine is rich and spicy (not chilli, the other kind of spice) and it really is a hug in a mug on a cold winter's day.
Spiced Hot Chocolate
500ml whole milk (or your preferred fat content version)
25g dark chocolate, plus extra for grating
6 heaped tsp of your favourite powdered hot chocolate
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
100ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp caster sugar
This recipe will serve two cups of hot chocolate. If you're making more, increase the ingredients accordingly except the vanilla. 1 tsp will be enough for up to 6 servings.
In a saucepan, gently heat the milk with the dark chocolate, cinnamon, cardamom and 3/4 of the vanilla. Don't let the milk boil but let it gently heat to a hot, drinking temperature. Boiling the milk will bring out the sugars and cause a skin to form. We don't want that. Stir every so often so that the chocolate melts evenly.
In two cups, divide the powdered chocolate and add a tsp of boiling water to each cup. Mix it until the powder dissolves. In a bowl, whisk the sugar, double cream and the rest of the vanilla together until the cream is only just stiffening. It should look soft and billowy. If you over whip it, add a little more cream and stir it in.
When the milk is at a temperature you like (I like mine quite hot), strain the milk into a jug, discarding the spices. Pour the milk into the cups you have prepared and spoon some of the delicious cream on top. Grate a little more dark chocolate over the top for extra decadence.