Friday, December 20, 2013

Hot Chocolate Barcelona-style

© The Sunday Times

When you’re in Barcelona during the cooler seasons, a popular treat for breakfast or post-drunk very early morning is a fried churro doughnut dusted with sugar and a cup of steaming, thick hot chocolate. Barcelonians take their chocolate very seriously, and some of the world’s best chocolatiers call the city home, so the chocolate they use is often of a very high quality and a high percentage of cacao. There is a chocolatería there called Cacao Sampaka where the hot chocolate is so thick that a spoon inserted vertically in the middle of the cup will stay upright. It’s more like a rich, decadent molten mousse than what we think of as a cup of hot chocolate (which sadly, is often made with a packet of Swiss Miss mix). Make the effort and whip up a steaming mug of this recipe, and you’ll see what all the fuss is about.

Chocolate a la Taza 
                           with whipped cream: “Suissos”
Serves 5 to 6

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (64-70%), nibs, or in small pieces
¾ cup boiling water
2 Tablespoons high-quality cocoa powder
4 to 6 Tablespoons sugar, to taste
3 to 4 Tablespoons arrowroot, dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
2 cups whole milk
2 cups half and half
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Garnish (optional):
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
A few drops vanilla extract
Shaved or grated milk chocolate

In a cold mixing bowl, whip the cream until slightly thickened; add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping until peaks form. Reserve chilled.

Place the chocolate in a 3-quart saucepan and top with the boiling water. Stir together and turn the heat on medium-low. Stir in the cocoa powder and sugar,  and then whisk in the arrowroot, milk, half and half, and vanilla. Continue to stir while the mixture heats up, using a wooden spoon at the corners and bottom, to prevent scorching. Continue heating until the mixture is hot and thickened, with little bubbles starting to form at the edges (do not simmer).

Pour 5 ounces or so into pre-warmed mugs. Top with whipped cream, and garnish with chocolate shavings (optional).


If you’re lazy yet still want a decent cup of rich, thick hot chocolate, here is my recipe for making your own instant mix, with good ingredients. It makes a decadently rich and fast mug of hot chocolate that is far FAR superior to Swiss Miss or any of those others.

Mick’s Instant Hot Cocoa Mix
Makes about 13 cups, or ~ 40 servings

4 cups powdered sugar
2½ cups Dutch-process cocoa powder (Droste or similar)
5 cups powdered milk
1½ cups heavy cream powder (or powdered non-dairy creamer)
4 tablespoons arrowroot
2 teaspoon salt
Dash cayenne pepper
Hot water
Mini marshmallows, or whipped cream, plus shaved chocolate for garnish (optional)

Sift all ingredients together into a large mixing bowl and distribute evenly. Portion into resealable bags and shake to re-distribute before measuring-out (in case it has settled); keeps indefinitely in the pantry. Fill a mug half full (about 1/3 of a cup) with the mixture and pour in hot water. Want it thicker and stronger, stir in a little more. Stir to combine. Top with mini marshmallows, or whipped cream, and shaved chocolate.

PS: it’s also good with some Kahlúa or Tia Maria, Bailey’s, Amaretto, Luxardo Espresso Liqueur, Frangelico or Nocello, or Godiva added to the cup!

Mick Vann ©  



  1. Arrowroot? *Arrowroot*??

    I dunno...

  2. Arrowroot is a thickener. Usually sold as "arrowroot starch". I've seen it in ethnic groceries and believe it can be found in health food stores as well.