Just when I thought we were going to have a mild winter this year, Berlin pulls a fast one on me. The temperature dropped to -8C last weekend, and with winds up to 20km/h, it felt 10 degrees colder! I tolerate heat much better than cold, so going out in the cold always feels like some kind of an expedition the way I bundle up. Wool knee socks, jeans, tank top, wool sweater 1, wool sweater 2, my down-filled winter coat, a hat, gloves, lambskin-lined winter boots. No scarf since my winter coat has one of those rolling hoods that doubles as a scarf.
Ten minutes walking outdoors and my hands are numb. So I’m in full winter hibernation mode. Inside the flat, I’m still prone to chills; living in a Berlin Altbau with high-ceilings and single-glaze windows can mean cold indoors too.
When winter weather hits Berlin, hot chocolate is the answer! The key to my hot chocolate is the tea-infused milk; it adds that extra depth of flavour to your hot chocolate. My favourite is Earl-Grey-infused milk with dark chocolate. I always have (dark) chocolate couverture in the pantry and these range from supermarket brand couverture to high-quality chocolate maker couverture. Really, just use what you like!
I like the Simón Coll drinking chocolate bars, 60% cacao bars with cinnamon or vanilla and a 70% cacao bar with chilli and pepper; they are conveniently sold at the shop underneath my flat. For this recipe, the Simon Coll chili-pepper bar would be too overwhelming in combination with the Earl Grey tea, but feel free to try the chocolate on its own and maybe add your own spices into it, like cayenne pepper. Or Szechuan pepper.
Another one I like to use is Willie’s Cacao. I’ve used his Indonesian Black, Venezuelan Black and Cuban Black. With the Earl Grey infusion, I prefer to use the Indonesian Black chocolate. The caramel flavours of the chocolate works so well with the Earl Grey.
Contrary to what people believe, chocolate is vegan; cacao “butter” is derived from cacao beans, not from cows or sheep or goat. Unless it’s milk chocolate, which definitely has cow, sheep or goat-derived butter. Since I buy mostly dark, dark chocolate (bars under 75-80% are too sweet for me), this isn’t an issue for me. I do check the ingredient list and with proper bean-to-bar chocolate makers, these are often only cacao beans and sugar.
What you need for 2 mugs of hot chocolate
400ml whole milk, or unsweetened almond milk (I use EcoMil Mandelmilch). 100g plain dark chocolate, finely chopped. 1 teaspoon orange liqueur (can be substituted with vanilla extract). 1 teaspoon loose Earl Grey tea leaves.
Heat the milk
In a heavy-bottomed pot, over a medium heat, heat the milk, stirring occasionally as it comes to boil. I use a flat whisk to stir the milk and later blend the chocolate into the hot milk. Stirring during heating and cooling of milk helps to break apart the protein clumps which forms the “milk skin” on top. (I love having that “milk skin” on puddings, but not in my hot chocolate). Turn off the heat, add the tea leaves and leave to steep for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes, strain the tea leaves and return the milk to the pot.
Mix the milk and the chocolate
Over a low heat, add some of the chopped chocolate into the milk. Turn up the fire if needed, and continue whisking until the chocolate and milk is smoothly blended. Again, don’t let the liquid boil. Add the orange liqueur/vanilla extract. Whisk again until blended.
Enjoy with some whipped cream and cocoa powder on top if you like!