For purposes of full disclosure, I've never been to Paris or Italy and I've never drunk European hot chocolate made by an actual European. All I've done is drooled over Pinterest pictures of things people say are European hot chocolates, which seems kind of sadly American. Until you taste this hot chocolate and then you won't feel American and sad anymore. Well, maybe you'll still feel American, but you won't feel sad. At least in the moments you're drinking this. After that, I guess it's up to you (helpful hint: don't read the news feeds; just drink chocolate beverages).
Truthfully, you can make this as dark or light as you want to. We went with dark. You're going to choose 5 ounces of whatever level dark chocolate you want (or you can mix and match). Our first time we went with about 60% and the second time we went darker with 70%. It's easiest to use chocolate bars as they melt better than chips, but the truth is that decent-quality chips will work too (especially if you give them a little extra time to melt--tip below), and then you add milk.
But what really takes this above and beyond amazing is the chocolate whipped cream and sea salt. I'm going to be honest--the chocolate whipped cream is not very sweet on its own and I thought that putting that on top of an already very dark, thick hot chocolate was kind of a recipe for disaster, but they just really work well together. The creamy compliments the dark even without being overtly sweet. And now I want to put barely sweetened chocolate whipped cream on everything (note: this is not the best healthy choice). So don't be too afraid if your hot chocolate tastes a little dark and your whipped cream tastes a little unsweet--they work together. Especially when you add the sea salt to the top, which acts to accentuate the sweetness of the chocolate--it's like bringing out the color of your eyes. Maybe they're blue and kind of average until you put that shirt on and then they're blue and not average. That's how the sea salt works in this. It brings out the sweetness and the flavor. Although I have to say that if you hate dark chocolate and hate the whole sea salt trend, this dessert probably isn't for you (and you can go back to watching the presidential debates and living your sad and lonely life). But seriously, if you taste this and think it tastes like eating cocao beans, just sprinkle in some sugar or honey to balance your world again, and all will be well.
Dark European Hot Chocolate with Chocolate Whipped Cream and Sea Salt
adapted from Adventures in Cooking
Makes 4 small or 6 very small servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
chocolate: 2.00 (that's on the cheap side; I actually got mine for $1 because it the high quality chocolate was on clearance and I pillaged the store, but $2 can get you an okay chocolate; $3 will get you a perfectly good one and more will make this phenomenal), milk: .10, cream: 1.00, cocoa: .10
Note: This might look like normal hot chocolate, but it is thick and filling. Do not fill up a mug and think you can polish it off without getting a tummy ache. Pretend your Parisan and get one of those tiny espresso cups or something.
Note on using chips instead of bars: This can work, but you'll want to melt it all on the heat, then let it sit for a while--ten minutes or so--and then heat it again. When we did this, we had a thoroughly melted cup of cho despite the chips we used in our first batch.
Note on chocolate: You don't have to use the best chocolate in the world, but you can't use junk if you want this to taste good. Save the generic waxy chocolate for some kid's birthday party and use something better for this.
For hot chocolate:
5 oz dark chocolate (I suggest 60-50%, but if you're brave, you can go 80% or 90% and if you're a wimp, try a nice semi-sweet 50%)
3/4 C milk
For whipped cream:
1 C heavy whipping cream
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp sugar (I used about 1 1/2 T because I was afraid)
chunky sea salt for sprinkling
To prepare hot chocolate:
Heat a small saucepan on medium or medium low. Heat chocolate in it until melted (watch it at this phase; you don't want to burn your chocolate; just mix it almost constantly and this will be fine). When it's melted or nearly so, whisk in the milk. Whisk until ingredients combined and then heat until smooth. I like to let it sit for a few minutes. I feel this helps the chocolate get silky smooth (especially if you used chips, but even if you used a bar).
To Prepare whipped cream:
Add cream to a bowl and blend away. Start on a lower speed and make it higher every 30 seconds or so. When it's starting to get lots of air bubbles, add the cocoa powder (turn the speed down or you'll dust your house in cocoa powder). This will make it thicken faster (no, I don't know why, but it does). Then add the sugar.
To assemble hot chocolates:
Pour chocolate into a tiny adorable cup. Add a generous scoop of chocolate whipped cream. Sprinkle with chunky sea salt. Drink. Or spoon it out if you'd rather (that's totally what I did).