View From Lodi, CA: Hot Chocolate For Thanksgiving!
November 21, 2003, 04:00 AM
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More of Joe's food columns:

View From Lodi, CA: The Coming Fast Food Fight

View From Lodi, CA: Bon Appetit, Julia Child!

View From Lodi, CA: Fruitcakes—As Memorable As A Story by Capote

View From Lodi, CA: Keylime Pie for Christmas!

View from Lodi, CA: What To Do About Bananas

One of the big Thanksgiving Day questions is what to eat before you "really eat".

Unless the cook in your house starts the turkey at 3:00 AM, the earliest hour that you can expect to sit down to dinner is noon.

So what are you going to do to take the edge off your appetite while you wait?

A bowl of Corn Flakes hardly seems the right way to start off a four-day Thanksgiving weekend eating binge. Cold cereal doesn't taste good and doesn't fill you up.

What I recommend is to treat your family to an honest to goodness cup of steaming hot chocolate.

Mind you, I said, "Hot Chocolate." We'll not have any watered down cocoa to start off Thanksgiving.

Hot chocolate is easy to make and may just end up being more fondly remembered than your special stuffing or Grandmother's pumpkin pie.

On a recent trip to New York, I noticed that hot chocolate—selling for $7 a cup—had made a remarkable comeback. Once a mainstay of French, Belgian, Spanish and Austrian coffeehouses, many of New York's most renowned pastry chefs have added the item to their dessert menus.

Bruno Feldeisen of the Four Seasons Hotel on East 57th St is convinced that hot chocolate delivers the highest chocolate experience possible.

"The heat, flavor and aroma are equally powerful and because it is liquid, hot chocolate can immediately deliver chocolate's 'profound essence,'" said Feldeisen.

Feldeisen created his own "Molten Hot Chocolate" menu that includes 16 flavoring options. Among them are Chinese five-spice powder, peppermint, peanut butter, banana or, if you dare, chili pepper. The ingredients of most-requested item, "Whispering Heaven," remain a closely guarded Feldeisen secret.

Before sharing Feldeisen's recipe, I'll offer a few cautionary notes. While it is true that hot chocolate can be made with 2% milk or even with water, please do not do so. Hot chocolate with low fat milk or water will taste surprisingly good but will not have the velvet texture we are looking for.

Be sure to use bittersweet chocolate that has a high cocoa-butter content ranging from 51 to 70 percent.

Avoid the urge to top your creation off with Kool-Whip.

Here's how to do it. You'll need 10 ounces of the highest quality bittersweet chocolate. Do not use supermarket chocolate. [Joenote to VDARE.COM readers: Buy American! I use only Scharfenberger made right here in California.] You'll also need a quart of whole milk and a half-cup of cream.

  • Bring the milk and cream to a boil and add the chocolate that you have chopped into small pieces.

  • Reduce the heat to low and stir until the chocolate has melted. Then beat with a whisk for about 10 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Expect to spend five minutes whisking.

  • Add the flavoring of your choice—I like peppermint—and let stand for 20 minutes while the flavors develop. Either keep warm in a good thermos or reheat slowly before serving.

With a little more effort, you can make your hot chocolate even more memorable. Homemade marshmallows are easy and fun. But you may not have the time on the night before Thanksgiving.  A meringue topping is quick—only ten minutes—but not really worthy of your chocolate creation.

The answer is chocolate whipped cream. Take ¼ cup of unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder; add 3 tablespoons of confectioners' sugar and one cup of well-chilled heavy cream.

In a small bowl, mix the cocoa and sugar. Then, in a well-chilled bowl combine the cream and ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and whip until soft peaks form. Then gradually add the cocoa mixture until completely blended.

You may think that adding chocolate whipped cream to a cup of hot chocolate is gilding the lily. I assure you that it is not.

The only thing that could make your Thanksgiving morning cup of hot chocolate more enjoyable would be sub-freezing temperatures. That's when hot chocolate is the best.

But even in our temperate Lodi winters, you'll take plenty of pleasure in good home made hot chocolate. 

One final thought: this recipe makes four large cups of hot chocolate. In the unlikely event you have any left over, let it cool completely, place it in a large coffee cup and freeze. Then, when you're ready, take it from the freezer and let it defrost about 75% of the way.

What you'll have then is a great ice cream like concoction that makes a great dessert.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.