I was going to write about Fruit Leathers aka Fruit Roll ups. But I just can't be bothered. It's too cold (at least where I am, which is in Suffolk) to write about blackberries and fruit stuff.
Instead I want to write about hot chocolate.
I've never been satisfied with commercially available hot chocolate mixes. My dad, in his coffee shop that he used to have, used to make the most exquisite hot chocolate - made with Cadbury's Hot Chocolate syrup which you couldn't buy it in the shops. Cadbury's has stopped making it now anyway. My dad would make me a cup of half hot milk with the syrup and half 'schiuma' - what you English call 'foam'. It was the best ever hot chocolate and has never, really, been beaten. I'm guessing that if I tasted it now I'd think it was really sweet. But memories, and all that..
For a long time, in the absence of Mr Cadbury's syrup, the way I'd make hot chocolate was by heating up some milk with some 70% cocoa content chocolate in it, then whisking it all up. It would be dark, rich and not too sweet.
When I was out and I could get it (and you can't here in Suffolk, please could you open up a branch Antonio), I'd drink Carluccio's Cioccolata Fiorentina, which is served in espresso cups and is dark and custard-thick. It's delicious - I urge you to try it if you are ever in a Carluccio's. You can buy the powder to recreate this drink at home, but it's hard to replicate what they do in the shop and to have any hope of success you need to make it in large quantities. Also, don't look at the ingredients as it will put you off.
But the idea of a small cup of something that really hits the spot appeals. I've never been a fan of large, mediocre drinks: small and potent is what I'm after.
Last year my youngest daughter was baptised. For the cake part of the party, I made lots of chocolate cupcakes using Nigella Lawson's recipe (Nigella Domestic Goddess p.168). The icing was chocolate ganache - chocolate melted with cream (I don't really do sugar or buttercream icing, I mean, it's nice, for the first mouthful but then it leaves you in a diabetic coma). Nigella's recipe always makes more ganache icing than you could possibly ever pour onto the cupcakes (as it is, the icing is a good centimetre thick), but I always make the amount she recommends because I live in fear of my cupcakes one day going naked cos I skimped. On this occasion I had plenty left over, so I kept the rest in the fridge.
(For those interested, I topped the cupcakes with an orange wafer rose from Jane Asher. The effect - orange on a glossy dark brown cupcake in brown paper holders - was smart and sleek which is just what I wanted).
As the party wore on, some die-hards remained. It was October and the evening air was fairly fresh and I fancied hot chocolate. I looked at my now set-solid chocolate ganache in the fridge. I wondered what would happen if I melted it again, added some hot milk and whizzed it up with my Aerolatte frother wand-thing.
It made hot chocolate that was so superb that everyone commented on it, even though by that stage they were fairly tipsy and deep in conversation. Everyone said it was the best hot chocolate they'd ever tasted, even those I didn't get in an arm lock.
I served it in little ceramic cups so you got just a few mouthfuls, which is all you'd want as it's imaginably rich...
Chocolate Ganache Hot Chocolate
I've adapted this from Nigella's original recipe as otherwise you'd be drinking it for a week...
90g 70% cocoa chocolate (I use Waitrose Continental - which comes in a black, rather unassuming wrapper - it's very good)
40g milk chocolate (I use Green and Black's as it's a higher percentage cocoa than most milk chocolates, but I don't use its plain chocolate as I don't like it as much as Waitrose's)
100ml double cream
a few drops of vanilla extract (about quarter of a teaspoon).
Milk to suit
Melt the milk and dark chocolate with the cream. You can do it straight in a pan but you may feel safer doing it in a bowl, above a pan of boiling water. Stir until melted.
You should have a very thick mixture. Warm up some milk separately, then carefully and slowly add it to the chocolate/cream mixture. What you're aiming to do is loosen up the ganache, but you don't want to add so much milk that you change it into a really runny mixture. You want to end up with something that's thick: so thick you could eat it off a spoon, but is still drinkable.
Look, no-one said this was going to be easy. If you want a normal, easy to make hot chocolate drink, get any old shit from the supermarket. This is proper stuff that will warm your body and your soul because it requires a bit of care in the making.
It will be worth it.
If you need to homogenise the mixture, you can whisk it up. I use my Aerolatte whizzer thing.
Serve in small espresso cups. If you don't want to use all the mixture, just refrigerate it before you add the milk; and if you don't end up eating it straight out of the fridge with a spoon, just melt it down and add warm milk and whisk it up like that. This way you can actually make just one cup at a time.
Enjoy it. It's good.