Hot Chocolate and its cohort – Churros
Do you remember the first time that you heard of ‘hot chocolate’? I do. It was in an obscure restaurant in Muradabad where my dad was posted. I was about 8 and mom, didi (elder sister) and I were visiting my dad during Diwali. I was excited about getting a much longed for glimpse of the world (and food) outside the protective circle of home and family. So when we went out for a meal to a local restaurant in Muradabad, I almost died of excitement when I discovered the words ‘hot chocolate’ on the menu. I bet atleast some of you have had this moment – of hearing the worlds HOT CHOCOLATE and then logically visualising gooey, rich, thick, dark chocolate as a hot luscious drink. It’s what any sane kid would do, right? A dark brown river of joy.. all my favourite books, toys and tv shows rolled into one and much much more. A prodigal moment even. A heralder of all the good things that growing up and consequently the freedom to eat out would mean.
Like any parent wanting to shield their child from the cruel reality of life, my mom and dad tried to prepare me for what was to come. Stubborn that I was, I wasn’t going to let anybody burst the bubble of my sweet dreams. Especially not my parents. And so, to prove my belief in the deliciousness of outside food and put my greedy determination where my mouth was, I refused to order or eat anything else at the table that day. (Ya, I know..I was an annoying brat!)
I am sure atleast some of you can guess what came next. Bourvita in milk. MILK – that hated drink that one sneaked into the kitchen sink, ‘accidentally’ stumbled to spil, passed off onto their sibling in return for ironing her school clothes, fed the street dogs and even the plants in the balcony. And heartbreak. Dreams shattered, tears running down my cheeks, hating the world for being such a sham and my parents for being so right, I went hungry to bed that bight. And NEVER ordered hot chocolate in a restaurant again.
And thats the miserable story that set off my quest for the perfect hot chocolate. Hot chocolate the way every kid deserves to have atleast once.The perfect silky texture, deep, dark flavour. Thick but drinkable. Sweet but not cloying. Intense but not bitter.
I played with cocoa, dark chocolate, whipped cream, cornflour, whole milk, skimmed milk, vanilla, coffee, egg, cocoa, cinnamon.. whatever would give me that elusive molten chocolate that I dreamt of. I discovered a lot along the way. That dark chocolate is always better than the sweet milky variety. That red chilli adds a beautiful heat to chocolate (am curious about lemon zest.. will give that a shot next). That water actually accentuates and releases the chocolate flavour while milk inhibits it. Cocoa can leave a powdery aftertaste. That the right amount of coffee adds darkness and intensity, improving lacklustre chocolate and elevating it to the levels of gourmet. That adding cream at the very end gives it that silky mouth feel. That vanilla makes this a dessert. That the right amount of cornflour can make this a sinful fabulous pudding. (more on that another day)
And the best part.. I stumbled on Churros along the way. Crunchy, cinnamon sugar-coated pastry. Made to be dipped in hot chocolate. And my hot chocolate fell in love with the churros. They live happily ever after now.
You should try making them. You will too.
(P.S. My apologies for the porn style pics with crappy lighting. The craving for churros and chocolate overcame me at night and that’s the one time I managed to sneak a few pictures before they got down-ed. So you see, the quality of the pics is just the fault of the chocolate and churros. Blame them please.)
Hot Chocolate (3 small but intensely satisfying servings)
Very very easy to rustle up, this is a very rich drink and we would never have this in more than half cup portions. But those portions are perfect. Dark, gooey, thin enough to drink, thick enough to coat the fabulously tasty and crunchy churro without making it soggy.
1.5 cups water
175 grams dark cooking chocolate
.5 t coffee
half cup cream
half a vanilla bean (you could also a red chilli along with the vanilla bean)
1. Bring the water to boil with the vanilla seeds and bean and instant coffee. Let simmer for about 5 minutes before adding in the chocolate chunks, stir and let the chocolate melt into the water.
2. Once the chocolate has melted into the water and the mix has come to a boil, remove the vanilla bean and the chilli if you added it. Whisk in the cream and just bring to a boil before taking the drink off the heat.
3. Serve HOT.
Cinnamon dusted Churros
These churros are the best I have made and/or eaten. Most of the churro recipes online have you starting with a choux pastry but in my experience that doesn’t give the right kind of resilient crunch. These here.. they are far simpler to make and absolutely beautiful. Sweet, golden, crunchy sticks that are unsweet till coated with the cinnamon sugar. Just Right. Every person who has tasted them has agreed that these beat the pants off any shop/cafe/restaurant churro they have eaten. Honest. I know Churros are very much the rage. But you Must try these. And be warned. You will be requested to make these again. And again.
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornflour
pinch of salt
Oil for deep frying
1.5 cup water
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1. Mix the flours, baking powder and salt. Whisk well.
2. Bring water and 2 tablespoon oil to boil in a pan. Add the hot water to the flour and mix with a spoon till you get a soft, slightly sticky dough. Let rest for 2 minutes and then lightly knead to get a smooth textured ball.
3. In a lidded box that is atleast as wide as your hand, mix the sugar and cinnamon powders.
4. Heat the oil for frying till very hot. Fill a chakli maker/ icing tube or a piping bag with a star nozzle with the dough and press out just a small bit and add to the oil. If the oil is ready, the dough will immediately rise to the top. Press out one whole churro (about a finger and a half in length and), fry till golden and remove. Once drained, place this in the box with the sugar cinnamon mix and shake till coated. Remove, taste the churro.
If the oil was at the right temperature, the churros would be crisp outside and soft inside. Too low an oil temperature and the churros will take a long time to get golden; too high a temperature and they’ll brown quickly but not cook through.
5. Fry 4 to 5 churros at a time, draining each batch on paper towels and then coating with cinnamon sugar. Serve while they’re still warm. Enjoy.