It is deep midwinter and I have just returned from a lovely holiday in London with family and extensions of family. Because Dickens was my first love as a reader, I reveled in the notion of Christmas pudding and “God bless us every one!” For a special gift, I wrote a family cookbook for my daughters. I found an easy-to-use website, Tastebook.com, that allowed me to create a professionally-finished book. The collected recipes and photos tell the real story of our lives together, gathered round the kitchen table each day, always sharing that time together. So, from our favorite biscuits to home-made pizza and Aunt Mary’s coffee cake — I recorded it all. During our time in London, we used the cookie recipes to bake up a storm. However, just as I adapted many of the recipes from ones handed down by my grandmother and mother, we found that the times called for new adaptations. Molasses was not to be found in Ealing markets, so we used treacle. The flour was of a slightly different milling. The result? A new delicious rendition of our gingerbread people. We kept the old touches. Before each one is baked, we arrange the limbs into interesting poses. The bulky spicy people become ballerinas and joggers, and this year there was also a headless horseman!
I find it difficult to separate the idea of home and family from the nurturing that comes from spending time preparing special foods. In October Run, Phred Rivers starts her morning after a trying business trip by cooking eggs nested in frames of bread. This was, and still is, a family favorite of mine. When Phred arrives in Savannah and meets up with B&B owner Beau McKinley, she swoons over the silky, decadent hot chocolate he prepares for her. One reader told me she set the book down when she reached that scene; and tried to recreate Beau’s hot chocolate. So in the spirit of the season of treats and sharing and good warm things, I thought some might enjoy Beau’s Hot Chocolate:
Beau’s Hot Chocolate serves two generously
This lush chocolate can be enhanced with a splash of rum or Irish Whisky, but is fine just the way Beau likes it.
2 cups milk (1% is good, more % is better)
3 ounces very fine chopped or grated, good bittersweet chocolate (like Ghiradelli or Callebaut)
a few grains of salt
2 thin stips of orange zest
2 T heavy cream
Directions: Warm the milk with chocolate and salt in a small saucepan over low heat, whisking continually until nearly at a boil, and frothy. Pour into two mugs. Float 1 T of cream in a small pool in the center of each mug, swirl once with a spoon for attractive design (Beau likes things to be pretty). Twist one zest strip over each mug to release the orange oil, then drop the zest in the mug. Enjoy!