Masala Drinking Chocolate

January 13, 2011
By Holly Jennings

This drinking chocolate is inspired by the flavor and aroma of the famous Indian tea known as chai. There are various recipes for chai. The simplest style, like the recipe in the previous DCCC pick Entice with Spice, is made with black tea, milk, sugar and cardamom pods; more complex chai, using several spices, are called Masala Chai. (Masala means “spice” in Hindi.) Some masala chai have a licorice accent via fennel or anise seed—thus the addition here of Pernod, a licorice-flavored liqueur. (My bar is directly above my spice drawer, so it’s easy to get side-tracked.) There’s a lot going on in this intensely rich drinking chocolate! It’s best when lingered over and savored. (For lots more information on the basics of making and serving drinking chocolate, read My Favorite Drinking Chocolate.)

Makes four 6-ounce servings

3¾ cups whole milk
2 cloves
1 small piece cinnamon (about ¼ inch)
3 cardamom pods, cracked
4 tablespoons Dutch-processed (alkalinized) cocoa powder
1½ tablespoons sugar
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (52 to 55% cacao), chopped*
Pinch of sea salt
½ teaspoon Pernod, pastis, or absinthe (optional)
Cardamom pods for garnish (optional)

  1. Combine the milk and spices in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. (If your saucepan has a thin bottom, heat the milk over medium-low heat.) Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. (If you think you may have scorched the milk, do not scrape the bottom of the pan when stirring.) Strain the milk and discard the spices. The milk will have reduced by about ¾ cup.
  2. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the cocoa powder and sugar. While stirring vigorously, over medium-low heat, gradually add ¼ cup of the heated milk, a tablespoon at a time. Continue stirring until all lumps of cocoa are incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Add the chocolate and reduce the heat to low. Gradually add another ¼ cup of the milk, while stirring. Heat until the chocolate is melted, stirring often. Add the remaining milk in a steady stream, while stirring. Bring to the gentlest simmer. Add the salt and Pernod, pastis, or absinthe, if using. Garnish and serve.

*Note: Better quality chocolate with higher amounts of cacao solids tends to be available in block form, necessitating chopping. To make sure the chocolate melts at an even rate, chop the block into small, similar-size pieces. I like chopping chocolate; however, if you can find what you want in pistoles or chips, this will eliminate a step.

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