Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chocolat Chaud

It was recently suggested to me that I might do a guest blog on a site here in Provence. Kind of cool actually, and though I don't yet know if it will pan out, I was pretty excited by the whole idea. The site,, is a plethora of information about the area and I check it out every day. In fact, it’s run by a transplanted Wisconsinite who now lives here in Provence.  Her suggestion was that I might want to write about Aix en Provence; things that I love like restaurants, historical sites, shops, etc.

The problem is I really don’t go to a lot of restaurants or do a lot of shopping. It’s just not in the budget. And being without a car prohibits those spontaneous afternoon explores outside the city.  But it got me thinking about my favorite things here in Aix and if they are even worth writing about. And I’ve decided they are. They’re not big or grandiose…they’re everyday things that just make me happy. And today I’ll treat you to my “winter” happy thing.

I have now lived the better part of two winters here in Aix and as I’ve mentioned a few times before…I’m cold most of the time. And so I’ve spent the better part of those two winters on a quest for a good cup of hot chocolate. I had always heard that France has the most delectable chocolat chaud, but the results of my meanderings and taste tests have always been less than satisfactory. Generally, I’m served almost exactly what I’d get at home, although perhaps with better flavor. A cup of not very hot milk, with remnants of chocolate powder still floating on the top and a gooey mess of undissolved chocolate powder at the bottom.  Big deal! Of course, I drink it. It’s chocolate!  But I don’t want to just drink the damned stuff…. I want to savor it.

So I hadn’t found it…until two weeks ago. And oh, baby…..

There is a little restaurant on the corner of the Place de la Marie (about 2 blocks from my apartment) called La Brasserie de la Marie. Kind of has a ring to it, don’t you think?  I blew in there in one cold night with a friend because they seem to keep the door SHUT at all times and it looked nice and warm. It was too late for coffee, so I ordered hot chocolate…expecting more of the same but too cold to care.

What was presented to me was the reward for all my grueling hours of investigation. The treasure after a long voyage. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Before me sat a steaming, thick, deep dark brown cup of …something special.

And it tasted even better than it looked. It was thick and velvety on my tongue with the almost bitter taste of real chocolate. Truly worthy of a spoon and my grandmother’s china cups. And it was hot. Oh mon dieu…now we’re talkin’!

I woke up this morning thinking about that chocolate. In fact, it was 5:30 am and I was thinking so hard about it, I had to get out of bed. Of course, my favorite place is not open at at that hour of the day so I decided to see if I could perform this feat by myself. So with the help of the Internet, I was sipping a cup of hot perfection by 6:30 am.

So here’s my version of the recipe for

2 C milk (50 cl) I used demi-écrémé or 2%
4 ounces (120 mg) bittersweet chocolate (65-70% cocoa)
1 or 2 tsp. brown sugar.

(Notes: use good chocolate, not baking chocolate. You can also use half cream and half milk but it doesn’t need it. And some recipes call for vanilla bean in the milk. I didn’t have any and didn’t think it needed it.)

Heat up the milk on medium heat until it’s warm and add the chopped chocolate. Whip (I don’t have a whip either so I stirred…really fast) until the chocolate has melted. If you want it a little sweeter, add the brown sugar, turn up the heat, let it get just to the point of boiling but not quite, and keep it there for about a minute or two. Keep stirring quickly; it seems to make it creamier.

Et c’est tout!  That’s all. This should make about 4 small cups. You don’t need to drink a mug of this…I promise. Although I am! I'm an American. Drinking everything out of a very large cup is genetic.

This is almost better if you let it sit for a few hours after making it and then good soup. In fact, I’m drinking my second, reheated cup (excuse me…mug) as I finish this and I’m about to go into a chocolate coma. But what a way to go!

To quote someone, although I don’t know whom, “Coffee makes it possible to get out of bed, but chocolate makes it worthwhile.” My day is definitely going to be worthwhile.

Oh, and by the way, that is a chocolate chip cookie in the picture. I really got a little carried away today!


P.S. Let me know what you think


  1. I am heading to the kitchen now to try this out! Although I think we are fresh out of milk, would baby formula suffice?

  2. Oooh, Jessica! Just the thought of it makes me cringe! :) I don't think I will ever forget the smell of baby formula. I've always put that in the category of "bad baby smells"....unlike the smell of their blankets, or their soft heads, or their sweet breath. Those are filed under "delicious". Thanks for commenting. I knew you'd figure it out!

  3. Well the diet stops me even trying this but I'll tell you something (I'd whisper it if I could) - I don't like hot milk, not even with chocolate in. It makes me gag to even think about it.

    I'm with you on the writing about the little things that make us happy. The grand gesture places can be occasional but it's the incidentals that give us those filips of pleasure that make life very worthwhile

  4. In fact, FF, I thought of you as I was writing it...and feeling a little bad. Now I don't. And you're absolutely's the little things.


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