Winter is coming! But, before we get too excited and ask everyone if they want to build a snowman, let's also make a plan to get cozy. After all, that's what winter is all about!

During the holiday season, cold winter nights are filled with falling snow, crackling fires, and cozy blankets. Evening winter essentials are relatively simple but are made better with a piping hot cup of hot cocoa that warms the soul. Looking to ramp up that simple cup of hot cocoa into an extraordinarily decadent winter-warmer? Toss out your powdered Swiss Miss, and drink hot chocolate as the French do.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), finely chopped
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • whipped cream, for garnish
  • homemade marshmallows for garnish

Directions

  1. Begin by chopping your dark or bittersweet chocolate with a serrated bread knife on a cutting board. Set aside.

  2. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the milk on medium-high heat. Add the cinnamon sticks and vanilla extract to the milk. Once the milk reaches a gentle boil, reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes.

  3. After the milk has simmered for 10 minutes, discard the cinnamon sticks. Turn the heat off, and gently whisk in the chopped chocolate. Continue to whisk until the chocolate is completely melted.

  4. Turn the heat back on to medium-low, and bring the chocolate to a gentle simmer, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the brown sugar and salt. The longer you cook your hot chocolate, the thicker it will become. If you desire a thinner consistency, don't heat the chocolate for an extended period.

  5. Serve the French hot chocolate immediately in individual cups. Top with a dollop of whipped cream or homemade marshmallows. Bon Appétit!

Supplies

  • Serrated bread knife
  • Cutting board
  • Medium-sized saucepan
  • Whisk

Recipe Notes

Can I Use Milk Chocolate In My French Hot Chocolate?

French hot chocolate commonly uses dark or bittersweet hot chocolate, about 70% cacao. To cut the bitterness of the chocolate, you can use brown sugar. We use one tablespoon of light brown sugar per cup of milk. Feel free to use more if preferred.

However, if the French hot chocolate still isn't sweet enough, then, by all means, this is your cup of hot chocolate, add some milk chocolate.

Can I Add Heavy Cream To My French Hot Chocolate?

You could. But, typically, French hot chocolate does not call for heavy cream. Authentic French hot chocolate will have whole milk and high-quality dark or bittersweet chocolate, no cream.

If you'd like to experiment with a hot chocolate that includes heavy cream, check out our crockpot hot chocolate—which is perfect for the holidays!

What Is French Hot Chocolate?

hot chocolate on wooden table with croissant

Growing up in America, I used only the finest powdered hot cocoa mix—Swiss Miss, and if my mom was feeling fancy, the best hot cocoa mixes on available. If I wanted to indulge in added chocolate flavor, I'd double down on those Swiss Miss packets, or use milk instead of water.

As I got older, I was sure I cracked the best hot cocoa code when I learned how to make homemade hot cocoa with the Hershey's hot cocoa recipe. This was the real deal, guys! I was making hot cocoa in a saucepan, not in a microwave. Fancy cocoa.

Yet, there was something better: French hot chocolate, or "chocolat chaud" en francais. If you're satisfied with the thin consistency and the subtle flavors of cocoa powder-based hot chocolates, then you may not need a French hot chocolate recipe. But for true chocolate lovers like myself who are seeking a richer chocolatier experience, Parisian hot chocolate is most definitely for you!

Rich, thick, and creamy, chocolat chaud is a decadently indulgent treat. Drinking French hot chocolate is like drinking your favorite dark chocolate bar. Compared to American hot chocolate, French hot chocolate is not as sweet.

Customizing hot chocolate by adding brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt can help with the bitterness. Additionally, garnishes such as dollops of fresh whipped cream and homemade marshmallows will add sweetness.

Misconceptions About French Hot Chocolate

chopped chocolate

Contrary to popular belief, there is no heavy cream in French hot chocolate. It's understandable as to why so many chocolat chaud recipes online include heavy cream as an ingredient, as the texture of French hot chocolate is incredibly rich.

However, to achieve the creamy, rich texture of French hot chocolate, only whole milk and high-quality dark or bittersweet chocolate are used. It's essential not to rush the process of heating the milk, as this will also help create that luscious consistency of the hot chocolate.