Writing in “Gran Cocina Latina” (W.W. Norton & Co., $45), Maricel E. Presilla says this hot chocolate was inspired by the spice blend found in cacao balls made in a village in Venezuela’s Paria Peninsula. Cinnamon, star anise and fresh ginger give a delicious edge to the dark chocolate drink.
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 6 star anise pods
- 12 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 quarts whole milk
- 2 vanilla beans, preferably Mexican
- 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate with about 70 percent cacao content, such as El Rey Gran Saman, extra bitter, coarsely chopped
In a food processor, combine sugar, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger and almond extract and finely grind to a powder. Alternatively, you can grind the dry spices in a spice mill and then process them with the sugar, ginger and almond extract.
In a large saucepan, combine the spice mixture with the milk. With a small paring knife, split the vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and beans to milk. Heat to jus under a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, 10 minutes to allow the spices to infuse the milk.
Into another large saucepan, strain the milk, place over medium heat and add chocolate. Beat vigorously with a wire whisk until you have a good froth. Serve at once.
Variation: For a thicker, creamier texture, increase the chocolate to 10 ounces.