My introduction to Topla Čokolada, or Croatian-Style Hot Chocolate
This isn’t a post about a stellar cup of hot chocolate that I had in Croatia and had to try to re-create. No, indeed, the cup of hot chocolate that I had at a café/bar with a cool terrace and an even cooler entryway in Zagreb, Croatia, came from a mix. It tasted perfectly fine and warmed me up. A shining example of Topla Čokolada (aka Croatian-style hot chocolate), however, it was not.
The texture, though, thick and creamy, almost a bit like pudding, got my attention, though. I had expected something along the lines of rich chocolat chaud, or French hot chocolate. Instead of a cup of rich melted chocolate, this was decidedly lighter, while still having a deep chocolate flavor. When the weather grew crisp again, I remembered my unusual cup of hot chocolate and decided to look it up.
Croatian-Style Hot Chocolate’s is basically Italian
It turns out that I wasn’t wrong about Topla Čokolada resembling pudding, because it uses a similar method. It also turns out that the Italians also make this kind of hot chocolate, calling it Cioccolato Caldo. Given the Italian (well, Venetian) influence on the cuisines of coastal Croatia and Montenegro, this didn’t surprise me.
Lighter than French hot chocolate
If you’ve never had Croatian-style Hot Chocolate before, you’re in for a treat. Topla Čokolada, like chocolat chaud, features rich melted chocolate, but unlike French hot chocolate, Croatian-Style Hot Chocolate uses less chocolate and uses a bit of thickener to give it more texture. This results in a cup of hot chocolate. While I love both, I find the Croatian version a bit easier to drink.
Not a strictly traditional recipe for Croatian-Style Hot Chocolate
This isn’t a strictly traditional recipe for Topla Čokolada, but it gets the texture right, and it is delicious. To make Croatian-Style Hot Chocolate, you start by chopping dark chocolate (I used a combination of 72% and 65% cacao, but use what works for you). Then you make a little slurry with some cornstarch, confectioner’s sugar, and a bit of the milk that you’ll use for the hot chocolate. This prevents lumps (you can easily whisk away any potential lumps, but this makes it easier).
Topla Čokolada comes together in about ten minutes
Heat up whole milk, and when you start to see steam forming on the surface, add the slurry. From here you need to start whisking until the milk approaches boiling and the things have thickened slightly. Then just add the chocolate, vanilla, and a tiny little dash of sea salt and whisk for a bit longer until the chocolate has melted and it’s thickened some more. Total time is about ten minutes.
Serve right away. This makes two servings. You can reheat the second serving over the next day or two. It’s rich enough that I don’t recommend trying to drink it all in one go, though it’s good enough that you might try!
Top with Gingerbread Whipped Cream (and/or add your favorite winter warmer)
Add your favorite winter warmer liquor for a bit of a kick. For an unorthodox, but I daresay scrumptious addition, add a dollop of Gingerbread Whipped Cream!
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Croatian-Style Hot Chocolate (Topla Čokolada)
- 1 saucepan, large enough to hold all the ingredients and to whisk
- 1 wire whisk or whip
- 1 cup whole milk
- 50 grams dark chocolate, chopped into tiny pieces I used a combination of 72% and 65% cacao
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp confectioner's sugar
- ¼ tbsp vanilla to taste
- 1 tiny pinch sea salt to taste, but don't skip
- In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and confectioner's sugar. Add about a tablespoon of the milk and mix with a fork to form a slurry. This will help to prevent lumps
- In a saucepan over low heat, heat the milk until it's hot, but well below boiling, add the cornstarch and confectioner's sugar slurry. Begin to whisk, watching for any lumps
- When you start to see bubbles form on the surface, add the chocolate, vanilla, and sea salt and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture has thickened a bit more (not more than two minutes)
- Serve immediately. Leftovers can be reheated over the next day or so
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