Sure, it seems like the June Cookbook Challenge has been an exercise in indulgence for us – cooking some really amazing foods and taking advantage of some of the best ingredients the season has to offer. But there have been some hardships along the way, as well. Few have been as difficult as this: finding a recipe in a book called Hot Chocolate to make in the middle of summer.
This is another one of those written versions of a unitasker – a recipe book that takes a fanatical look at a single subject and provides recipes for a dozen different variations on the theme. Don’t get me wrong; some of these have provided us with more than a few favorite recipes. But trying to find an appropriate subject to attempt in this book was just too tough. We settled for a basic spice-infused hot chocolate and decided there was nothing to it but to do it.
We heated one cup whole milk with one stick cinnamon and 3 whole cloves over low heat for 10 minutes, being careful not to let it scorch or even bubble much. At the end of this infusion period, we removed the cinnamon stick and the cloves and added four ounces finely-chopped bittersweet chocolate and stirred it with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes until the chocolate seemed to have completely melted. Then we added 1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar and stirred until the sugar had dissolved. At that point we pulled the saucepan from the heat and allowed it to steep for another ten minutes.
Finally we returned the saucepan to the stove over low heat and brought it back up to a simmer before serving.
There you have it. Almost thirty minutes to make a single mug of hot chocolate. Was it worth it? Heck no. For starters, we had to tend the thing throughout, making sure it wasn’t overheating and stirring to get everything incorporated. Beyond that, the cost was a bit ridiculous. If you haven’t looked recently, four ounces is an entire chocolate bar. If you’re using decent chocolate (we used Ghiradelli), that’s going to be an expensive mug of hot chocolate. Finally, it’s just too damn rich. Even with the spice notes, this was like drinking liquid chocolate; a rich indulgence in the winter, but a real challenge on a summer night.
Flipping through the rest of the book, it seems like this massive cocoa-bomb of a recipe is the rule, not the exception. Though the anecdotes, stories and histories that precede each of the recipes are interesting, there’s just too much concentrated sweetness in the recipes. With that kind of chocolate overload on every page, I doubt we’ll be holding onto this book now that we’ve seen it in action.