The Christmas season lulled us into an artificial sense of winter cheerfulness what with its sparkly lights that brighten those initial dark winter nights. But with the cold, harsh reality of New Years Day, it’s now clear that really, what we’re left with when Christmas is all packed back away, is that it’s January. It’s a long cold winter month without Christmas lights, office parties, cookies or trifle.
A lot of us stuck in this horrendous situation, with winter heavily bearing down, go into a stage of denial, telling ourselves that we can find fun winter activities to keep us busy until spring. At the top of this “winter fun” list is ice skating.
Though I don’t especially like ice skating, like most situations I can be coerced if there’s food involved.
Besides, when I tell myself I want to go skating, what I’m really saying is I want to go to the pub after skating. A nice dark pub with a fireplace, where I can drink a porter or stout, something that’s black like motor oil, accompanied by another something, heavy with fried cheese. I also love the idea of bringing a flask to the rink, to repel the cold and make the activity a bit more entertaining but I don’t think it’s such a great idea to impair my motor skills in any way when I’m on the ice. When it comes to rink snacks, I think it’s fair to stick with simple hot chocolate and whatever fried thing they’re selling nearby. In our case, the french fries were the best option.
The hot chocolate is easy to put together and so much better than whatever the nearest vending machines are turning out. When I was coming up with this hot chocolate, I essentially started doing what I thought Nigella Lawson might do and as such I’ve ended up with a few British ingredients in my recipe. Nigella knows her chocolate desserts. She has full respect for chocolate and I find that many of her chocolate recipes are reminiscent of biting into a bar of pure chocolate. That’s the reason for both the dark chocolate and cocoa powder as they both provide their own special depth to this drink.
The bourbon-soaked vanilla bean is completely optional. Whenever I use a vanilla bean I add it to a jar that’s been filled with bourbon, a bit like feeding a homemade vanilla extract. The flavour of bourbon is so welcome in my baking that I thought I’d enjoy a vanilla extract with it as its base. The bourbon, of course is strong and competes with the vanilla so it’s not a pure vanilla extract though it is a satisfying ingredient to have on hand. At any rate, recycling one of these bourbon-soaked beans to infuse into this hot chocolate only makes sense to me if you happen to have it on hand. Otherwise you could add in a teaspoon of vanilla extract or simply leave the vanilla out all together.
Makes enough to fill a 750ml thermos
150g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 bourbon-soaked vanilla bean (optional)
500ml whole milk (3.25% M.F.)
2 tablespoons Lyle’s Golden Syrup
Fat pinch of Maldon salt
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk over medium-low heat until silky smooth. Decant into mugs or a thermos.