Dense and creamy, nothing says winter in Italy like a rich cup ofcioccolata calda– hot chocolate. Discover the origin and history behind this sweet favorite, then get our recipe!
The story of hot chocolate
The first hot chocolate was born in South America, where pre-Columbian populations first discovered how to make it. Of course, their version of hot chocolate was very different from the one we have today. The first hot chocolate was a drink based on cocoa paste flavored with flowers or beans and spices such as vanilla, chili pepper, and cinnamon. It was revered for its medicinal properties as well as its economic value, since cocoa beans had been used as a currency.
After landing in South America in 1517, the Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortés fell in love with this drink. So enamored with its rich taste, he started sending huge quantities of cocoa to Spain. Right away, King Charles V adored chocolate and it quickly became a status symbol for the wealthiest classes. Because of the Spanish dominion, Italy was among the first states to be introduced to hot chocolate.
One day, Emanuele Filiberto, the Duke of Savoy, decided to serve hot chocolate during a celebration that honored Torino as the new capital of the Kingdom of Savoy. The rest, as they say, is history and it wasn't long before Italy became a center of excellence for the production of hot chocolate, especially in the region of Piemonte.
The key to Italian hot chocolate
So what makes Italian hot chocolate different from other kinds? Italian hot chocolate is thicker, creamier, and generally much richer than traditional American hot chocolate, which is less dense and milkier. It is made with a few key ingredients: cocoa, sugar, and milk. In some cases, a little dark chocolate and a thickening agent, such as cornstarch, are added as well. It can be served on its own or with a dollop of whipped cream.
Our method for a thick and creamy hot chocolate is to use a little bit of all these components. Try our recipe below!
Cioccolata Calda (Italian Hot Chocolate)
Recipe courtesy of Eataly
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
3.5 oz (100 g) dark chocolate, 70% cacao
4 tbsp (30 g) bitter cocoa powder
2 tbsp (15 g) cornstarch or potato starch
3 tbsp (25 g) confectioners sugar
Chop the dark chocolate into very small pieces. Place the milk on low heat.
In a bowl mix together cocoa, cornstarch (or potato starch), and powdered sugar. When the milk is hot, but well before it starts to boil, add the mixture and start stirring, always in the same direction, avoiding the formation of lumps.
Once bubbles start to form on the surface, add the chocolate and mix until thick and creamy. But beware: the startch will cause it to thicken even when removed from heat, so it's a good idea to remove the chocolate from the heat before it thickens completely (otherwise you run the risk of turning it into a spoon cake!)
Pour it into two mugs and serve it warm. For a dash of decadence, add a dollop of whipped cream on top!
A few tips for makingcioccolato calda
- Make sure the milk is warm before you start adding the other ingredients.
- Keep the heat on low and be careful of burning the bottom.
- Do not allow the chocolate to thicken too much before removing it from heat.
- If chocolate clumps start to form, remove the mixture from heat and whisk vigorously until it is smooth again.
- For those who wish, the chocolate can be flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, or caramel.
All clear? Now that you know how to make hot chocolate at home, don't miss the chance to try it at your local Eataly!