How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
of a cup of City Bakery hot chocolate,
crowned with a giant marshmallow
whose bottom disappears from sight
into chocolate-y depths I cannot fathom.
A worthy riff on a famous poem, no? I’m kidding. But for those of you familiar with City Bakery’s hot chocolate, maybe it’s not such a stretch comparison after all. You have to love the thought of pure viscous decadence though, complete and unadulterated hedonism in a cup. And you have to love chocolate.
Luckily, chocolate is something both Chris and I love, as well as marshmallows, and post-shopping breaks spent perched on stools on the mezzanine at the Bakery. We stopped in for a snack the other day and ended up whiling away a good chunk of the afternoon nibbling on food and drink, him with his latest haul from the Strand and me with the February issue of Bon Appetit. Time well spent, I say.
Which brings me to today’s post. I love love love the hot chocolate at City Bakery and have been wanting to replicate it at home for some time now. But with a recipe shrouded in secrecy, and a taste that’s like a word on the tip of the tongue—not quite placeable—the best I can do is create the tastiest, creamiest, thickest hot chocolate possible and nestle in it a giant, fluffy homemade marshmallow. The marshmallow will melt, improving the taste/creaminess/thickness even more, and all will be right with the world.
That being said, there’s a difference between hot chocolate meant to be drunk and dipping hot chocolate. Have you ever tried Spanish churros with chocolate? Yeah, that stuff is THICK. This (pointing to the cup of hot chocolate above) is not that.
The attack was three-fold: for the taste, I used good dark chocolate (the last of my Guittard) and balanced it with a pinch of sea salt, a spoonful of sugar, and a splash of vanilla; for the creaminess, whole milk (this might demonstrate a sign of restraint as I could’ve gone the heavy cream route, but see the note above about Spanish hot chocolate; also, do you really want to drink ganache?); and for the thickness, corn starch, whisked in with the milk and slowly heated.
Next, the marshmallows. They are a recipe worth bookmarking unto themselves. City Bakery’s marshmallows are incredibly fresh, soft, and airy, and I found that whipped egg whites helped achieve that dreamy texture. They’re also large, so that each customer is awarded one per cup. You have to take a spoon to yours, slowly carving away at it, smothering each bite with a pool of liquid chocolate so that it melts away in your mouth. It’s an experience over which I dare you not to linger.
And hey, Valentine’s Day is coming up! How convenient. Or not. Just sayin’.
VERY DECADENT HOT CHOCOLATE
4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
2 cups whole milk
2 tsp corn starch
about 2 Tbsp sugar
generous pinch sea salt
splash vanilla extract
In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the dark chocolate with a splash of milk over medium-low heat. Stir. Whisk corn starch with rest of milk (vigorously or else you’ll end up with clumps of corn starch in your drink) and slowly add it to the melted chocolate. Add sugar to taste. Keep stirring until it reaches a low simmer and becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in salt and vanilla.
Divide between two cups. Top with giant marshmallows (see below).
2 Tbsp plus 2-1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 large egg whites
1 Tbsp vanilla
confectioner’s sugar mixed with corn starch (about 75%/25%) for dusting
Oil bottom and sides of 8- or 9-inch square pan. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup water. Set aside. In a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. With stand mixer, beat on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.
(This part is kind of annoying, but it’s worth it!) With a clean whisk, whisk 2 egg whites in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites and vanilla into marshmallow mix until just combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Sift confectioner’s sugar/corn starch over top, and let stand for about 4 hours or up to 24 hours until firm.
When cutting the marshmallows into pieces, have a lot of the confection’s sugar mix ready. Gently remove the marshmallow from the pan and set on a large cutting surface. Your knife will stick to the marshmallows with the first cut, but sprinkle the powder mix on it and it’ll be easier to cut subsequent pieces.