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’.
I have had the most incredible hankering for Korean food recently. I can’t explain it, except that this current weather makes me want to cuddle up with a bowl of soondubu and freshly cooked rice, made in a stone pot of course. I also just recently discovered Maangchi, who is just about the cutest woman alive other than my mom. They remind me an awful lot of each other actually.
Maangchi doesn’t do anything in half measures, meaning everything she cooks is in huge quantities. She whips out 10 pounds of kimchi at a time, fries huge basins of japchae. I can’t imagine the number of people she cooks for, but in the case of the recipe I’m sharing today, she deep-fried three pounds of chicken wings. For Chris and me, two to three wings/drumettes each, so maybe half a pound of chicken total, is sufficient. Although maybe we’re just light eaters. It’s hard to say.
But hold it! I’m misleading you, aren’t I? I actually didn’t end up following Maangchi’s recipe. It was pretty good, but I found that I preferred Saveur’s version better. The two taste totally different; I just found her version to be a bit cloying. (Also, I don’t understand why corn syrup seems to end up in a lot of Korean dishes—is it a common ingredient? And why?)
What the two versions have in common—and what makes Korean fried chicken so dang addictive—is that the chicken is fried twice. This results in a Seriously Crispy Crust. It’s the difference between a weak handshake and a firm one, sallow and sturdy. A robust crust, if you will. I think it’s dead simple and pretty genius. (The only downside is that you have to withstand being barraged by oil twice as long. Actually, come to think of it, that’s a pretty big downside. Deep-frying is freaky. Make sure you wear long sleeves. And gloves. And clear everything away around the perimeter of the pot because it’s going to get dirty.) And then you smother it in a hot-garlicky-mouth-puckering sauce and away you go!
(On an unrelated note, if you follow me on Instagram, you might know that I was in California last week, where I got to meet the newest generation of the Anderson clan, aka Chris’s brother’s four-and-a-half month old son and our nephew! I get a little giddy calling him this, because it didn’t really occur to me that he WAS related to me until Chris’s sister-in-law [which makes her my sister-in-law?] called me Aunt Linda. Aunt Linda! That’s so exciting! And now that I’ve seen him and fallen in love, I want to buy him things like this onesie. What do you think? Isn’t it adorable?? [Now my mom thinks I want to start popping them out. Ha. Ha ha ha. Sorry Mom. You'll have to give me time.])
I’m not usually a fan of juices. The frugal side of me finds them terribly wasteful—all that fiber being squeezed away, especially when fruit comes at such a high cost in these parts. And I’m still a little scarred from that Kelly Wearstler interview in Bon Appetit awhile ago, where she basically admitted to being on a liquid diet for about 90% of her day. Shudder. The thought of subsisting off plankton water and Superfood juice sounds horribly depressing. (But then again, I’m not an interior, architecture, and fashion maven with a small empire under my feet. There can’t be too much to be depressed about when one’s life is described that way.)
Despite my ambivalence, I haven’t been able to get a certain citrus punch out of my head. It was, without exaggeration, one of the most refreshing beverages I’ve ever drunk. I’ve been yearning for something as rejuvenating ever since, so it only seemed right to take advantage of citrus season and try my hand at concocting my own version.
My notes below.
1. Satsuma orange juice is, hands down, my favorite. It’s sweet and festive and smells so good! And it’s practically opaque! Like liquid sunshine, truly. But a piece of my heart breaks every time I juice one; it just goes against my better judgment, you know? They’re meant to be eaten! Nature couldn’t have engineered a better snack fruit. The waste, oh, the waste!
2. Blood orange juice is kind of bossy. You know how it’s got a slightly woody taste? Yeah, that tends to take over whatever you mix it with. Its color also dominates, which is fine most of the time because blood orange juice is beautiful, but not when it obscures the aforementioned sunshine.
3. Cara cara oranges look pretty, but their juice comes out tasting and looking an awful lot like regular orange juice. The two are pretty interchangeable in my mind, although cara caras are such a pleasure to eat because of their lovely salmon hue.
4. Yuzus are a bitch to juice. Have you seen a yuzu? (If not, picture below.) It’s like the sumo wrestler of the citrus world, all thick skin and padding. It’s also got thick, well-developed, er, walls (sorry, didn’t have time to brush up on my citrus anatomy), requiring some serious muscle action to extract a disappointingly scant amount of juice. But, like the way it smells—floral and extremely fragrant—its juice tastes pretty spectacular. It’s one of my dad’s favorite fruits.
I also introduced some ruby red grapefruits, honey tangerines, lemon, and sweet lime into the mix. Nothing to note, except grapefruit juice is awfully watery. I would’ve loved to get my hands on some kumquats, but Whole Foods didn’t have any in stock, sadly. I wouldn’t juice them anyway – the skin is part and parcel of the whole kumquat experience.
As far as mixes go, I realized the complexity of each type of citrus would be drowned out if I didn’t curate my selection. So I decided to stick to just two types, cara cara (or navel) and satsuma. They’re quite complementary.
In the end though, I wanted something more than just a fancy fruit juice. I wanted a restorative counterpart that would coax me into a zen-like calm. That’s where the green tea comes in. It adds a touch of earnestness to the drink that turns it into a balm that chases away all wintry blues.