Not all hot chocolate is created equal. Chocolat Chaud is French hot chocolate, also called French drinking chocolate. It's extremely decadent and rich, truly intended for chocoholics. You'll find it in popular Parisian cafés and tea rooms like Angelina, Carette, and Café de Flore, but it's easy enough to make yourself at home in 10 minutes or less!
Chocolat chaud is a European style hot chocolate, and it's about to become your new favorite way to enjoy this cozy wintery drink. What makes chocolat chaud so much better than American style hot cocoa (in my opinion) is that it is literally chocolate melted in hot milk. No powders or mixes. It's about as pure, unadulterated chocolate as you can get.
The result is a rich, thick, creamy hot chocolate drink reminiscent of the coziest cafés in Paris. Indulging in a cup of chocolat chaud is as easy as one, two, three! In less than 10 minutes you've got a piping hot treat that will warm your soul and (figuratively) transport you to the heart of Paris.
- Whole Milk: While some suggest using a combination of whole milk and heavy cream, you really don't need the latter. A good chocolat chaud only needs whole milk as the dairy component. Avoid low fat milk here.
- Chocolate: French drinking chocolate is an indulgence, and only good quality chocolate will do. Get the best chocolate you can, as you will truly be drinking that chocolate without much to impact its flavor. Use bittersweet chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. Brands of chocolate I recommend include Lindt, Ghirardelli, Godiva, and Moser Roth (from Aldi). Don't use chocolate chips here.
- Vanilla Extract: You'll add just a touch of vanilla extract to boost the flavor of this French hot chocolate. It's not absolutely required, but it will add a little je ne sais quoi to the finished product.
- Sea Salt: Salt is a great complement to chocolate and helps bring out its natural flavors. Use a good quality sea salt like Fleur de Sel if you can. If all you have in your pantry is table salt, just skip it. It won't do you any favors here.
- Brown Sugar: This is purely optional and can be used to sweeten your Parisian hot chocolate as desired.
- Whipped Cream: Another optional addition, many Parisian cafés serve a small bowl of fresh whipped cream on the side of their chocolat chaud service for topping. If you truly want the best experience, use homemade whipped cream instead of store-bought (just beat heavy cream until it's relatively stiff, either by hand or in a mixer). I personally don't feel the need to sweeten the cream in this instance, though you're welcome to if you prefer. If will dissolve into your Parisian hot chocolate and make it extra creamy and luscious.
How to make it
In a medium saucepan heat the milk over medium heat until steaming but not boiling. Remove from the heat and whisk in the chopped bittersweet chocolate until it's completely smooth (PHOTOS 1-2).
Whisk in the vanilla extract and sea salt. Then return the saucepan to medium heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, whisking occasionally, until silky and thickened.
For a slightly sweeter finish, whisk in brown sugar until dissolved. Taste and adjust sweetness if needed.
Pour into cups and serve with fresh whipped cream, if desired.
Expert tips and FAQs
Serve this chocolat chaud in tea cups or cappuccino cups, not in large mugs. It's very rich and a small amount goes a long way. It's called drinking or sipping chocolate for a reason.
Cool leftovers to room temperature, then refrigerate it in an airtight container. Reheat gently in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat.
French drinking chocolate should be considerably thicker than classic American-style hot cocoa, but not quite as thick as chocolate fondue.
Although many use the terms interchangeably, they are not exactly the same. Hot cocoa is typically made with a powder while hot chocolate (also called "drinking chocolate" or "sipping chocolate") is made with actual chocolate that is melted into milk or cream to yield a more decadent hot beverage. Authentic hot chocolate is typically more European style while hot cocoa is more American.
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Chocolat Chaud (French Hot Chocolate)
- 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
- 5 ounces (130 g) good quality bittersweet dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Big pinch sea salt
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar (optional)
- Whipped cream, for serving (preferably homemade and unsweetened; optional)
- In a medium saucepan heat the milk over medium heat until steaming but not boiling.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate until it's completely smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract and sea salt. Return the saucepan to medium heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, whisking occasionally, until silky and thickened. For a slightly sweeter finish, whisk in brown sugar until dissolved (this is a matter of personal preference).
- Pour into cups and serve with fresh whipped cream, if desired.
- Serve this French hot chocolate in tea cups or cappuccino cups, not in large mugs. It's very rich and a small amount goes a long way.
- Choose the best quality chocolate you can. This is not the place to cut corners. I don't recommend chocolate chips for this recipe, as they contain stabilizers and do not melt as smoothly. Brands of chocolate I recommend include Lindt, Ghirardelli, Godiva, and Moser Roth (from Aldi).
- Cool leftover French hot chocolate to room temperature, then refrigerate it in an airtight container. Reheat gently in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat.
- Drinking chocolate should be considerably thicker than classic American-style hot cocoa, but not quite as thick as chocolate fondue.
- This recipe can easily be reduced to make a single cup or two, or multiplied to make more!
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*