CIOCCOLATA CALDA (Hot chocolate)

One of my friends is enjoying drinking hot chocolate. She drinks it as genteel ladies once drank it and in a fine cup. It is made the English way with good quality cocoa, water and a dash of milk. 

I too like my hot chocolates unsweetened and made with good quality cocoa. During my many visits to Italy I have ordered many hot chocolates in bars; each one I ordered was different in taste and thickness.

As a child living in Trieste, I grew up with drinking hot chocolate. It was my breakfast, it was drunk at childrens’ parties and at bars while the adults drank coffee. Trieste is close to Austria and the hot chocolate I was used to was always presented in a fine tea cup with a blob of whipped cream. It was always made with a generous quantity of quality cocoa powder and with milk.

Below: Il Caffè degli Specchi in Trieste. 

My mother always made it in a pentolino (we had a special small saucepan that we only used for heating milk) and she would stir the mixture until hot. When in bars the same ingredients were used, but the milk was foamed like in a cappuccino or caffé latte.

I tasted my first, thick hot chocolate when I first went to Mantova. It was almost the consistency of custard. . Those of you who have ordered hot chocolate anywhere north of Rome (except Trieste) would know what I am talking about – milk, sugar, thickening (usually corn flour or potato starch), and chocolate (often cocoa powder).

Places like Torino and Perugia are among the places in Northern Italy that produce fine chocolate so you will find thick chocolate drinks in these towns.

The Baroque city of Modica in southern Sicily is famous for its chocolate made with ancient techniques in the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, .  In the 1500s when the Spaniards were the rulers they introduced the method from the Aztecs;  the chocolate is often flavoured with cinnamon, vanilla, pistachios and citrus zest. When I had a hot chocolate in the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, I selected the version that had cinnamon and zest, and it was indeed wonderful.

Below: Modica and Antica Dolceria Bonajuto.

Traditionally, thick chocolate was made in the top of a double boiler, over boiling 
water – good quality, dark chocolate (not cocoa) is melted in water and stirred until it is dissolved. Still over heat, it is then whisked by hand for at least 3 minutes (in a modern kitchen, an electric wand can be used).

Another recipe for making a good tasting, thick, hot chocolate also contains some shaved good quality bittersweet chocolate (high level cocoa-70-80%) as well as the good quality cocoa, milk and sugar to taste (Italians like sugar). In a milk saucepan, mix the sugar and cocoa with a little bit of milk till smooth. Add milk and stir over medium heat. Add the bits of chocolate to taste (and preferred thickness). Keep on stirring till melted.

It can be an alternative to dessert.


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