Today was one of those day where the weather here went totally insane! When it comes to rain Malta certainly don’t do anything in halves, either there is no rain at all… OR it is like today, one minute you are looking at a street and the next we suddenly have our very own friendly neighbourhood river.
All this water does cause a little bit of a disruption for sure, but then this island is so wonderfully green in winter! I arrived in May after the last rains of the season had fallen and the fresh colours had more or less disappeared and morphed into the warm yellows that characterise many places around the Mediterranean in summer. I recognise it from both Greece and Southern Spain. However the transformation that takes place when the rains does fall is amazing and for me as an avid lover of greenery, it is very uplifting.
Of course that does not meant that we don’t complain about the rain when the skies happen to open over your head just as you walk to work and make sure that you will be cold and wet the rest of the day…
That is when you decide to make hot chocolate! I knew I wanted to make a hot chocolate with a twist, but was not sure what. (I have made countless variations this winter, insulation is not something that is considered a necessity here , suffice to say I’ve been cold!) Luckily I had a moment of inspiration, probably brought on by the crazy wind, and remembered the words of a very wise man… “Everything taste better with orange!” Aha! There’s the solution, orange hot chocolate of course, everybody know they are best friends!
To make things easier, or not I decided to test out two ways of making it, one considerably more complicated than the other…
25 g dark chocolate
1 mug milk of your choice (I used oat milk, just ’cause)
1 ts orange reduction or 1 ts orange zest
Depending on your preference you might want to add some sweetener such as honey, maple syrup or brown sugar, but I don’t think it needs it.
Starting with the more complicated version, here I basically started by making an orange reduction. To do this you first need to supreme the orange (Emily has a brilliant tutorial on her site, check it out here), don’t throw away the peel as we will be using it. Put the segments in a pan and squeeze all the juice out of the remainder of the orange, I like to cut the segments out over the pan so that I don’t waste any of the lovely juice. Then remove all the pith from the peel and cut it into strips and add to the pan. Let this simmer over low heat till most of the liquid is absorbed, when it gets dry the first time use a masher to mash up the segments. By now they are so soft that this is a breeze, let it simmer for some more time. Totally between 30 to 45 minutes, when done pour into a sieve and push through so that all the larger pieces and the zest is left behind. (Don’t throw this away! It is gold for giving any dish a lovely citrussy flavour, I have a feeling it will be making it’s way into some sort of baking concoction this weekend…) There you have your orange reduction, a lot of work for something that still isn’t hot chocolate, mind you can make a lot more than one cup with this!
Making the hot chocolate is super easy, break the chocolate into pieces and put it in a pan with just a little bit of water, probably about a tablespoon. This makes it easier to let the chocolate melt without burning or seizing up, another reason I make it like this is that my grandmother does… Nuff said! When the chocolate has melted add the teaspoon of orange zest or orange reduction and stir, then start adding the milk little by little. I specified one mug, as what I normally do is pour the milk into the mug I want to serve it in so that I know the amount of liquid I am looking at. Then heat till just under boiling point, and serve warm.
So which one of the hot chocolates tasted better? The quick and easy one or the long winded one? Hmm… Hard to say, I was surprised at how different they actually turned out, because I had a suspicion that making the reduction might be going ever so slightly over the top. What I found was that it produced two drinks with totally different character.
The quickest one that gets it flavour purely from the zest, have a much more obvious orange flavour. It jumps out and hits you straight away, and in many ways it reminded me of Terry’s chocolate oranges, which is by no means a bad thing!
The other one however had a totally different air, much more subtle orange flavour but somehow deeper. To use a wine allegory this one taste more like an oak aged red wine, while the other is more like a light fresh white. Both have their merits, but if I had to pick a favourite I’ll go with the latter.
So there you have it, much ado about not very much, but do combine orange with chocolate, please… You won’t regret it!