Chocolat Café Chaud (Hot Chocolate with Coffee)

Last summer, my friend Avery hosted a French exchange student – Livia – for the months of July and August. Over the two months, the three of us did nearly everything possible (for teenagers) in Western New York: walking through the Elmwood Village, a picnic on the waterfront, American malls, beaches, Bisons games, leisurely sitting by the pool, etc. By the end of the summer, we had surely become lifelong friends (and, thanks to Facebook and the like, it’s ridiculously easy to keep in touch).

So it was no surprise, really, when Livia sent us a gift package this Christmas – to Buffalo from Mours-Saint-Eusèbe. Along with a bar of French nougat (containing incredibly fresh pistachios and almonds), Livia sent me a French cookbook: Ma cuisine au chocolat by Joël Durand. While I am learning French, the book is a bit complex for my understanding. But from what I can gather, the book introduces chocolate into savory dishes. Examples: chocolate curry sauce, filet mignon au chocolat, and (something I can’t wait to try) pizza with tomatoes and dark chocolate. There’s also traditional desserts like milkshakes, cookies, and cakes – all of which look delicious and difficult to interpret. So, I stuck with something simple for my first attempt at making something from la cuisine de Joël Durand: hot chocolate.

But different hot chocolate, really: French hot chocolate… Hot chocolate made with coffee-infused cream, restrained amounts of sugar and chocolate (which I doubled anyway), and odd symbols that I believe mean “centiliter” and “gram”. The finished drink is very robust: you taste chocolate and coffee. I almost want to use the word “dry” in a very good way – this isn’t a cloyingly sweet hot chocolate. The portioning is also delightfully French: “pour 10 tasses” (10 cups). Why then, does the recipe call for only 50 cl of milk? If only I had a set of demitasses on hand…

I’m sure you’ve all heard this countless times, but it really is imperative to use quality ingredients when using only a few to begin with. Something tells me that stale milk, pre-ground Folgers, faux-chocolate chips, and cheap cacao powder wouldn’t really produce the intended results here. That said, a few simple precautions go a long way: freshly grind your coffee, make sure that there’s cacao butter in your chocolate (not copious amounts of corn syrup and soy lecithin), and preferably use Dutch-processed cacao powder. Your taste buds will thank you later.

I did make a few changes to the recipe. Firstly, I only scalded – not boiled – the milk. I also thought it was very un-American to want to make hot chocolate and then wait an hour while the coffee grounds infuse into milk. To solve this, I steeped the coffee earlier in the day, strained it, and refrigerated the infused milk for a few hours. When reheated, it tasted just as good. Meanwhile, I used double the amount of dark chocolate because… well, a mere tablespoon just isn’t enough. And lastly, I added a bit of vanilla extract at the very end: it rounded out the flavor nicely, although it really is optional.

P.S. Why is it that I’m beginning to end posts with tempting, New-Year’s-resolution-breaking pictures of food? I made pecan bars about a week ago; I don’t think they lasted more than 12 hours.

Ingredient List for 2

  • 2 cups of milk (I used 1%. 2% and whole should be fine as well.. half-n-half if you’re feeling particularly indulgent)
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly coarse-ground coffee
  • 1 tablespoon of cacao powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of grated/chopped bittersweet (70%) chocolate (the recipe originally called for 1 tablespoon, but we all know that that’s not enough…)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (my addition, optional)

For the Chocolat Café Chaud:

  1. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until scalded; be careful not to boil.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the ground coffee, cover, and let steep for 1 hour.
  3. Strain the coffee-infused milk into some heatproof receptacle, and then pour back into the saucepan. Discard the ground coffee.
  4. Reheat the milk until barely-not-even steaming. Whisk in the cacao powder, sugar, and a small pinch of mellow salt.
  5. Off the heat, whisk in the chocolate and vanilla. Pour into warmed mugs and enjoy.

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3 Responses to “Chocolat Café Chaud (Hot Chocolate with Coffee)”


  1. 1 Natalie @ www.natalieeatsbuffalo.com January 19, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    This looks amazing! The French know how to do it right. I will be making this as a treat this weekend 🙂

  2. 3 Jess January 31, 2011 at 8:14 PM

    Looks awesome!! I am from Buffalo and just found your blog, excited to keep reading! Buffalo love:)


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