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Polar vortex got you down? Cheer up with a cup of gourmet hot chocolate.

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Neila Columbo

(Read caption) Use Jersey milk for the sweetest cup of gourmet hot chocolate.

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The sweeping Arctic temperatures delivered by the polar vortex in recent days have humbled me into survivalist mode. While I am perfectly accustomed to unfriendly winter seasons, I am finding this cold spell particularly uncivilized. As a coping mechanism, I have begun wearing an attire more fitting of an ice age: double socks, two scarves, a puffy wool hat, ear covers, tights, and leg warmers.

Yet, this has not sufficed. I am still, like millions of others, still cold. There is one indulgence that is helping to keep my spirits up: gourmet hot chocolate.

While working during part of the days this week at a neighborhood cafe with WiFi, I have been treating myself to not one hot chocolate each day, but three, to be precise. This little "indulgence" has already depleted my weekly budget for cafe drinks that seemingly can only be made with the artistic skill of a barista. With this said, I have become especially attached to this particular kind of hot chocolate, and I knew I could not endure the remainder of this week without another. Who knows how long this polar-like winter may go on, it could be months!

Graciously, Brendan Higgins, the cafe barista at Area Four Bakery and Cafe in Cambridge, Mass., fully understood this dilemma, and generously shared his technique and recipe for creating an indulgent hot chocolate this winter, or any time of year.

How to make a gourmet cup of hot chocolate

1. Mr. Higgins says he always uses milk in place of water when making hot chocolate, and preferably milk from “Jersey” cows. Look for the "Jersey milk" label on cartons and jugs of milk. Higgins explains that milk from Jersey cows steams better and is sweeter because of higher protein structure. But feel free to use your milk of choice.

2. Choose your favorite chocolate sauce recipe to make – Higgins described his as “some butter, sugar, cream, and chopped dark chocolate.” Open in measurement, but seems simple in execution. (For a truly decadent chocolate sauce, try Mast Brothers Chocolate.)

3. Once the chocolate sauce is prepared, it should remain “warm to the touch.” Place a 1/2 inch of the chocolate sauce in the bottom of a a tall glass or mug.

4. Either by steam or saucepan, warm milk to approximately 170 degrees F., if the milk becomes scalding, it will lose its flavor.

5. Add heated milk to the glass or mug, and gently mix chocolate sauce with poured milk.

6. Shave chocolate over each glass or mug, or try creating a design on the hot chocolate froth such as Higgins’s “leaf” design (see photo). For this effect, he took the remainder of the warmed milk and poured a small amount in a front-and-back motion with his hand. This part, Higgins modestly noted, is an art he has come to perfect only over time.

Voila!


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