Why put these three things together? You may ask. Well, in the suburban, ordered world in which I grew up, donuts (specifically, plain Krispy Kremes, which were then solely available in the South) and hot chocolate were what we had each Sunday after Mass and before religion class. Years of this routine – go to church, trudge reluctantly to the senior school with the pack of other kids, munch on this snack, and sit through an hour or so of learning about the Catholic faith – instilled this ritual as part of my spiritual development.
I didn’t realize how much this combination might also be stored in the memories of my siblings, until one of them called me a few weeks ago to mention that she’d had hot chocolate and a donut (not Krispy Kreme, though, as she readily admitted) after church. She instantly drew us both into visions of Sundays when we were growing up, nothing more needed to be said. I’m not really sure who came up with the idea of selling these things to us for 25 cents apiece, hyping us up on sugar just prior to herding us into classes that none of us wanted to take but were forced to by our parents in the hopes that maybe we would absorb some catechism.
The scorchingly hot, watery, chocolately liquid searing down my gullet, chased with a light, fluffy, sweet morsel. I can still remember it vividly, even more so than any of the lessons that we were taught – sorry Sisters. With this rather dubious food memory in mind, you would have thought that it had put me off of hot chocolate forever.
Quite the contrary is true. Each year, finding the quintessential hot chocolate is a mini-mission. I’ve ordered it at some of the of-the-moment bakeries, local cafés, and other places reputed to be the one to have it in the city. The one and only place, however, where I have had a hot chocolate nirvana, so to speak, was in Italy in a non-descript local café-bar.
It was advertised as cioccolata con panna (hot chocolate with cream). What is was was nothing short of a soothing cup of heaven. The smooth, velvety, warm chocolate was almost like eating a melting candy bar. The cream slowly dissolved into the chocolate adding a light touch to something that could have been almost too heavy. Served with a crisp cookie, it was the perfect snack to have on one of those damp, biting winter days that just eat into one’s bones.
So, I wanted to try to reproduce the same feeling in my own kitchen, despite the fact that this winter hasn’t been anywhere near cold enough to need this refresher. The February 2007 issue of Food & Wine magazine has a recipe for “Warm Churros and Hot Chocolate.” Thinking that this might come close to my childhood Sunday memories, I decided to tackle it this holiday weekend. Here is the result:
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right size pastry bag tip so these came out a bit more like funnel cakes. I’ll keep the recipe in the event I get the inspiration to try to make this again. The chocolate needed to be, well, a bit more chocolately for my taste, but it was still good. I think, however, that the next time I really want to traipse down the lane of days gone by, I might pop into my neighborhood Krispy Kreme and see if I can boil up a cup of Swiss Miss. Then, it’s off to church!