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Food We Love: The best hot chocolate in the world? One Chicago chef says yes!

Welcome to Food We Love, our Sun-Times video series featuring stories about Chicagoans family food traditions, secret recipes, special ingredients and unusual favorite dishes.  Each week we’ll hear a new story about food and family and learn some amazing recipes that you can try at home. Our host is Chicago journalist Linda Yu, who loves cooking at home, as well as exploring new restaurants throughout the city.

In today’s episode: Chicago chef and caterer Ursula Aducci shares her family recipes for Chocolate Caliente and Chuao Hot Chocolate.

Join Linda Yu every week for cooking and conversation on Food We Love.

Join Linda Yu every week for cooking and conversation on Food We Love.

The Joy of Chocolate

How does a grandmother show her love?  For Ursula Adduci it was Grandmother Lucia’s kitchen, warmth and chocolate.

From her Costa Rican grandmother, Ursula learned how to make hot chocolate, so easy that even when she grew up and had a family, career and catering business, her very busy life never meant she had to resort to instant hot chocolate mix.  To this day, when Ursula makes her grandmother’s hot chocolate for her son or good friends, she describes the drink as a big hug of warmth and love.

Ursula also remembers her Great Aunt Carmen, who was Venezuela‘s First Lady in 1945 and again in 1959, introducing her to the “world’s best chocolate” called chuao.   Chuao comes from the rare Criollo cacao tree, grown only in Venezuela. It’s the darkest of dark chocolates and expensive.

What is not a big surprise is that most people describe chocolate in addictive terms.  We’re not embarrassed to call ourselves chocoholics; we give in to that urge to have one more piece of chocolate candy; we don’t like it if someone finds our private stash.  The reason?  There are chemicals in chocolate that do two things: one affects the part of our brains that increases our impulse to eat, while the other chemical boosts our mood and ability to concentrate.

But even as your brain is responding to those chemicals, your body is welcoming the “health food” side of chocolate.  Scientists have found a bit of chocolate can lower blood pressure, relieve stress and even lower the risk for heart disease. Ursula calls it the “happy food of gods.”

A variety of dark chocolates. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A variety of dark chocolates. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ursula showed me how to pick the chocolate that works for each of us.  The percentage you see on the bar tells you how much cocoa solids are in the bar.  The higher the percentage, the less sweet.  The darker the chocolate, the healthier the benefits.  With her catering company, Sazon Chicago, Ursula happily adds plenty of chocolate options.  You could ask her about Decadence Chocolate Cake with orange, currants and wine caramel.  Should we have a bit of chocolate every day?  Ursula says that’s her 3 p.m. daily ritual.

Together, we also sampled a number of chocolates including Amedei from Northern Italy (which Ursula uses in her hot chocolate recipe) and a rare chuao from Venezuela.  I took a little bite and three seconds in my mouth, I got a little surprise!  To see what that surprise was, and watch Ursula make her “big hug” hot chocolate, go to Sun-Times. 

Lucia’s Chocolate Caliente

Chocolate Caliente | Photo by Ernesto Aducci

Chocolate Caliente | Photo by Ernesto Aducci

Ingredients:

2 tbsps. unsweetened cocoa powder

1-2 tbsps. sugar

Cinnamon, pinch

1 cup milk, or any combination of milk, half-and-half and cream

¼ tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  • In a small saucepan combine cocoa, sugar, cinnamon and milk. Whisk ingredients together over a medium-low heat until cocoa and sugar dissolve.
  • Stir in vanilla.
  • For a more frothy consistency place mixture in blender for 3-5 minutes. If you don’t have a blender, substitute with a Mason jar or similar container. For an extra frothy drink in a separate jar, add ⅓ cup of milk and vigorously shake for 30 seconds. Place in microwave for another 30 seconds, remove and spoon froth over chocolate mixture.

Chuao Hot Chocolate

Chuao Hot Chocolate | Photo by Ernesto Aducci.

Chuao Hot Chocolate | Photo by Ernesto Aducci.

Ingredients:

1 Amedei Chuao chocolate bar

1 cup of milk

Directions:

  • Break chocolate bar into small pieces and place in bowl.
  • In a small saucepan heat milk until it begins boiling.
  • Slowly add boiled milk to chocolate, whisk until blended. Transfer to cups. For a festive look serve in seasonal or ornate glasses.

Enjoy!

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Meet more Chicago chefs, learn their cooking tips and get new recipes in these other  “Food We Love” episodes:

We hope you’ve enjoyed this segment of “Food We Love with Linda Yu.” Check the links below to watch Linda’s other #foodwelove videos. Each one has a great story plus recipes for you to try at home. You can also follow Linda on social media to get the latest on her CST series.

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