Hot Chocolat and a Movie…
Joanne Harris has written several books, but probably her most famous is Chocolat, the one that was made into a movie. It happens to be one of my favorite films because it mixes three things that I love – food (the chocolate), France, and a time period outside of the present – it’s set in the late 1950s.
It also has a bit of mysticism and mystery about it in the way the main character (Vianne) and her daughter are drawn by the North wind, destined to spend their lives traveling, never settling in one place for long.
After watching Chocolat several times over the years, I was intrigued when I saw that the author had written a cookbook – with of course, a chocolate section.
I also read that by the end of her book tour she couldn’t bear to see another piece of chocolate, as each place she was hosted seemed to have a cacao specialty awaiting her.
Old World Slab Tempering
In the film we see Vianne making chocolate the old-world way. By that I mean pouring it onto a slab and working it back and forth to temper it. Such was the method before kitchen gadgets of convenience.
And this artisinal way of creating chocolates is very romantic, and sensual. However, I can tell you from experience, if you were to temper chocolate at home, you would probably try this once and then go back and set your microwave and grab your digital thermometer.
About a year ago I took a chocolatier class. This means making the end chocolate confection, not the actual processing of cacao into chocolate – maybe this seems obvious, but I did have a lot of people ask me where I got my beans from.
Anyway, I did slab tempering. In some ways it was easier, because it cools the chocolate to the correct temperature faster….but it’s messy.
Still, there’s something about this that really makes one feel like a chocolatier and I would recommend anyone who is interested in making chocolates, try it. You can easily find a tutorial on YouTube.
I won’t go into all that here, but I did enjoy the process of becoming an amateur chocolatier, and I now have the certificate and the photos as proof of my undertaking (which I’ll include in a later post).
What I do want to share with you is the Chocolat Hot Chocolate.
As Joanne Harris mentions in her book, there was a time when spices were much more commonly used to sweeten and add flavor before sugar was available.
And I would say that even more recently there was a trend when hot chiles were put into chocolate recipes to add depth. Though that idea may not be as new today, it is still not that common, especially with hot chocolate. But it is the key to this simple, yet indulgent recipe.
- 1-2/3 c whole milk
- 1/2 vanilla, bean, sliced in half lengthwise
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 1 red hot chile, seeded, and cut in half
- 3-1/2 oz of bittersweet chocolate (use a good chocolate, marked 70 percent) - grated
- Brown sugar (to taste, optional)
- Whipped cream, a cognac, or chocolate gratings for garnish.
- Put the milk, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and seeded chile in a small pan and bring to a simmer - let simmer for one minute.
- Whisk in the grated chocolate until it melts. You have the option to add brown sugar - if you like things on the sweet side, go ahead and do so - I prefer it without.
- Remove from heat, and let the flavors infuse for ten minutes before removing the vanilla bean, cinnamon stick and chile.
- Put the hot chocolate back on the heat and bring to a simmer, then pour into mugs.
- Serve with whipped cream atop, or on the side, some chocolate grated garnish, or add a splash of cognac. I added a splash of heavy cream, without whipping it.
About the movie Chocolat
And just in case you haven’t seen the film Chocolat (though I can’t imagine you haven’t)…
In 1957, in a small village in France, Vianne (Juliette Binoche) arrives with her young daughter, and opens a chocolate shop across from the church and right at the beginning of Lent. The village is run by the Mayor, Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina) who disapproves of Vianne and her chocolatey sensual ways. He encourages the village folk to eschew both she and her shop, but slowly Vianne’s charms and the magic of her confections begin to win over the villagers, with the exception of the Mayor who spends his days devising ways to undermine her.
Then one day, a gyspy boat arrives and docks at the nearby river. The leader is Roux (Johnny Depp), a handsome Irishman, and in him, Vianne finds a soul mate. Needless to say, if the Mayor disapproved of Vianne, he’s not going to take kindly to a drifter, and through a sequence of events, he inadvertantly is the catalyst for fire that destroys the gypsy boat. Realizing how his implications were partially to blame for the fire, he begins to rethink his actions, and the movie comes to a climax when Vianne plans a Grand Festival of Chocolate, on Easter Sunday.