Hernán Cortés first introduced chocolate to Europeans in 1528 when he returned to Spain from Mexico with samples of cacao beans, cultivated by the Aztecs for thousands of years and used in a ceremonial drink known as xocolatl.
Not accustomed to the bitter flavour of cacao, the Spanish created their own version of the Aztecs’ traditional chocolate drink by adding milk, sugar and vanilla.
Hot chocolate reached the French court in 1615, when France’s King Louis XIII married Anne of Austria, daughter of the Spanish king.
And thus began France’s long love affair with chocolate.
Who better to share the secrets of this rich and flavourful drink than chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin, founder of the “chocolate bar” concept where there’s not just one hot chocolate on the menu, but a selection of exotic cocoa drinks that rivals the wine lists of the finest restaurants.
Hévin recently published a collection of 40 delectable hot chocolate recipes in a lovely little book (in French) called Chocolat Chaud (Hot Chocolate).
It’s an attractive volume, with a soft padded cover and lots of nice photographs.
The table of contents lists an impressive selection of hot chocolate recipes with names like Chocolat Chaud Forêt Noire, Chocolat Chaud Banane Piment, or Chocolat Chaud Grand Marnier-Abricot. But there are also unexpected names like Chocolat Chaud Tomate-Basilic, Chocolat Chaud au Caviar or Chocolat Chaud au Roquefort!
Jean-Paul Hévin is in fact known for his chocolate and cheese pairings. “I imagined this combination after making my chocolate and cheese apéritif chocolates at the turn of the millennium,” he writes of the Roquefort recipe. But, he warns, never stir toppings and hot chocolate together; you want to be able to taste one or the other flavour distinctly at random, not homogenise them.
For each hot chocolate, he suggests accompaniments from the classic French cake and pastry recipes provided at the back of the book: brioche, cake, quatre-quarts, madeleines, sables, tuiles, financiers and kouglof.
The hot chocolate recipes are all based on Chocolat Chaud Parisien, which calls for Hévin’s own hot chocolate powder. But they can also be made with any hot chocolate you have on hand. The author includes instructions on how to make homemade hot chocolate, which can be made with any good quality dark chocolate (for those who are lactose-intolerant, there’s also a recipe for non-dairy hot chocolate).
All the other recipes are for the special concoctions that transform basic hot chocolate into “hot chocolate with a twist.” Some require more preparation than others; all call for fresh, quality ingredients. They provide plenty of inspiration for those who want to go beyond “ordinary” hot chocolate and discover new flavour combinations, or for those who want to impress their guests—making this book a great gift idea.