I could spend all day browsing in a bookstore. Surrounded by worlds awaiting discovery, jazz music playing in the background, the toasty aromas of lattes and muffins thick in the air, I slink into a trance…
On a recent vacation morning where the kids’ activities all thankfully aligned and I was left with a few hours to myself, I stopped by Explore Booksellers, a charming bookshop in a Victorian townhouse, the only one in Aspen that has managed to endure against all odds. Of course, I bee-lined for the cookbook section. Curling up into a corner labeled Food Writing, I delved into Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table and Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink. Two hours later, I emerged from my bookstore bliss, newly inspired.
It was hard not to be overwhelmed by the shelves of books that I will probably never have time to read. But even one revelatory passage or breakthrough idea makes the trip worthwhile. Especially when it comes in the form of a memorable recipe. Here is one that still makes me drool. It is the most enticing recipe for hot chocolate that I have ever read. And it comes from a book I frequently give to friends as a luscious gift of love, compassion, and food all in one. If you are looking for a delicious adventure, pick up a copy of The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. In the meantime, whip up a steaming cup of Abuelita’s magic.
Note: The instructions are quoted directly from the book. They are a departure from my usual format, but to turn them into standard recipe-speak would be to deprive you of the author’s distinctly beautiful writing. Enjoy!
(adapted from The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister)
1 cup whole milk
4 curls of orange zest
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon ground anise or 1 star anise
3 ounces grated (or chopped) bittersweet chocolate
1 cup brewed black coffee
1/2 cup cold heavy cream, whipped with 2 teaspoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Find your magic wand.* Put milk in a saucepan…Make orange curls. Break the cinnamon stick in half. Add orange peel and cinnamon to milk. Grate the chocolate. Add anise…just a touch. Let it simmer until it all comes together. You’ll know when it does. Use your wand. Now add to your mother’s coffee. Top with whipping cream, for softness. Give it to your mother.
* In the book, the narrator probably used a wooden spindle called a molinillo, a traditional Spanish utensil used to froth hot chocolate. Generally hand-carved and lovely to look at, the molinillo functioned as a whisk, which today does a similar job but not nearly with the same finesse.
My magic wand is the BonJour Primo Frother, which makes super foamy milk for coffee drinks and hot chocolate.