How Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis Makes Hot Chocolate

Since leaving his executive pastry chef station at Le Bernardin (where he won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2007), Michael Laiskonis has taken up residence at the Institute of Culinary Education as creative director. There, he’s developed The Chocolate Lab, an education-focused bean-to-bar operation where he seeks to learn all there is to know about excellent chocolate and teach it to others. It’s there that he began to work with Madagascar chocolate brand Madécasse, which has its offices in Brooklyn. Here, he gives us his recipe for a rich hot chocolate that will be perfect for Valentine’s or any day:

This classic hot chocolate is great on its own, but can also take on additional flavors—customize your cup with spice, heat, or a boozy kick. Infuse two sticks of cinnamon or a one-inch piece of smoky whole arbol or guajillo pepper into the chocolate as it simmers, or add a spoonful of dark rum or brandy. Light brown sugar can also be replaced with piloncillo or palm sugar. Before serving, blend the chocolate with a handheld immersion blender to create a frothy foam.

Yield: Approximately 6 to 8 portions
Preparation Time: Prep time, 5 Minutes; active cooking time, 10 Minutes

1 quart (950 grams) whole milk
¼ cup (60 grams) heavy cream
1 cup (200 grams) light brown sugar
½ teaspoon (2 grams) sea salt
1 piece Madécasse Bourbon Vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 bars (225g) Madécasse Pure Dark Chocolate 92 percent, roughly chopped

Combine the milk, cream, brown sugar, salt and the vanilla bean in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and hold at a bare simmer, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.

Whisk in the chopped chocolate and continue to simmer an additional five minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and any added spices. Blend well and serve immediately.

Serving suggestion: Garnish with steamed milk, whipped cream, or a few fluffy marshmallows.