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Roasted Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

February 19, 2009


I consider myself somewhat of a “hot chocolate connoisseur.” B and I drink it a few times a week during the winter, after dinner, and have ever since we’ve been married. Over the years we’ve really honed what we like — we have a real system to whip up our mugs of chocolatey deliciousness 🙂 — but we’re always looking for new ways to switch things up.


Now, when I say “switch things up,” even I have my limits: and they do not include the time when we accidentally stirred kosher salt into the hot chocolate instead of sugar….eep! Not a flavor combination you ever want to try, for sure. (If you’re wondering how I could have ever made that mistake, I will just say that when you keep your dry goods in large clear glass containers, unlabeled, like I do, sometimes….well…mistakes happen.)

start with chopped toasted hazelnuts


A year or two ago, one of my good friends gave us a whole cookbook dedicated to hot chocolate for Christmas (thanks M!) It’s provided lots of great inspiration for new liquid chocolate concoctions (none of them containing kosher salt.)

steep the toasted hazelnuts in steamy milk


One of our favorite variations starts with milk that’s been steeped with chopped roasted hazelnuts, then combines it with chopped dark chocolate and a little dark brown sugar. It’s got lots of nice flavors going on: a subtle undertone of toasty hazelnuts, rich dark chocolate, and the caramel-y sweetness of the dark brown sugar.

Some notes on hot chocolate* that I’ve found make a great mug:

  • Dutch process cocoa dissolves better than regular unsweetened cocoa powder in liquid, plus it lends a rich, chocolate flavor to the drink. That being said…
  • …nothing beats chopped chocolate for the ultimate hot chocolate. A combination of dutch process cocoa and a little chopped chocolate (your preference – milk, semisweet, or dark) equals a super chocolatey, super rich and delicious drink.
  • Whisking dry cocoa powder directly into hot milk often leaves you with lumps (or sludge on the bottom of the mug.) For better dissolving, whisk the cocoa together with the sweetener and a little hot water in the bottom of the mug to make a paste first, then whisk the hot milk into the paste. You’ll be amazed at the difference – no lumps!
  • Honey is usually my sweetener of choice, just a little – maybe a teaspoon. I like my hot chocolate with just a touch of sweetness.
  • It’s never a bad idea to gild the lily with some softly whipped heavy cream. 🙂
*By “hot chocolate,” I am referring to drinks made with milk (no water), good quality unsweetened cocoa, maybe some chopped chocolate, and something real to sweeten it (honey/sugar/maple syrup only, please.) No “hot cocoa mix,” that un-chocolatey powdered stuff with a weird chemical aftertaste, odd dehydrated “marshmallows(?),” and all manner of artificial ingredients (that people usually mix with water, adding insult to injury!)
Friends don’t let friends drink bad hot chocolate…keep it real!

Dutch process cocoa is the best.


mix it into a paste with the brown sugar and water


my favorite – Callebaut dark chocolate


whisk the chocolate and cocoa-sugar paste into the steaming milk


If you wanted to make this mug of hot chocolate really special, you could stir in a little Frangelico liqueur at the end…yowza!






Roasted Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

Adapted from Dufflet Bakery via Hot Chocolate by Michael Turback

view printable recipe

1/2 cup whole hazelnuts
4 1/2 cups milk, preferably whole or reduced fat
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup hot water
4 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped (I always go for dark!)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or 1/4 cup Frangelico liqueur


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, in a single layer, and roast until golden and skins are beginning to crack, about 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then finely chop (a food processor makes quick work of this step.)

Bring the milk and chopped hazelnuts to a boil over medium heat in a large heavy saucepan. Turn the heat off and let the mixture steep for 30 minutes, so the hazelnuts infuse the milk with their flavor.

Meanwhile, whisk the cocoa, brown sugar, and water together in a small bowl to make a paste.

After the milk has finished steeping, heat it up again over medium heat until it begins to steam. Whisk in the chopped chocolate and the cocoa-sugar paste, until the chocolate is melted. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla (or Frangelico, if using.)

Strain the hot chocolate into 4 mugs. Top with softly whipped cream and additional chopped hazelnuts, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2009 11:28 pm

    I’m trying to jump through my computer screen. Steeping the hazelnuts in milk. Wow. What an amazing idea. And I’m definitely using dark brown sugar next time I make cocoa. Why didn’t I think of that. Dark brown sugar makes everything better.

  2. February 20, 2009 4:05 am

    That looks amazing! Love the blog! I’m near Ithaca, where do you get your Callebaut dark chocolate?

  3. February 20, 2009 6:26 am

    Lovely hot cocoa idea! At the last restaurant I worked at we made hot cocoa latte-style with steamed milk off the espresso machine. I’m wondering if you could use an immersion blender to froth up the milk a bit? I’ll have to experiment.
    LOVE the hazelnut idea.

  4. February 20, 2009 8:38 am

    This looks so yummy! I too have a love affair with hot chocolate. 🙂

  5. February 20, 2009 9:18 am

    YUM! Thank you for your tips for making such a wonderful hot chocolate. If you ever make your way to Chicago, I will personally take you here to try their Mexican Hot Chocolate.

    It is totally unreal!

  6. February 20, 2009 9:56 am

    Delicious, Amy! And the tip of making a paste is a good one.

  7. February 20, 2009 10:49 am

    This looks amazing! Like nutella & cocoa’s love child. I have to give this a shot. I wonder if it would work with almonds?

  8. Amanda permalink
    February 20, 2009 1:12 pm

    I have only begun to read your blog, but I LOVE it. And, what a wonderful & timely article —- I was only recently looking wistfully out the window wishing to cradle a warm cup of cocoa! I look forward to making!

  9. February 20, 2009 2:20 pm

    This is the perfect hot chocolate!

  10. February 20, 2009 2:31 pm

    Wow, this is definitely my next cup of hot cocoa. Almost as good as a jar of nutella!

  11. February 20, 2009 2:56 pm

    Yum, this looks incredible!

  12. February 21, 2009 12:23 am

    This makes me wish there’s an invention that allows me to beam things from my computer screen to my desk so I can enjoy them instantly!

  13. Mom permalink
    February 21, 2009 7:36 am

    The hazelnut flavor sounds delicious, Amy! Can’t wait to give this a try!
    Love, Mom

  14. ameliasauter permalink
    February 21, 2009 5:50 pm

    Oooo, brown sugar. I’ve never tried that before but I will next time I imbibe. Now Frangelico, that I have tried and loved. Due to a milk allergy, I use soy milk in my hot chocolate, with some vitamin D pills on the side. Damn the lack of sun in Ithaca. -Amelia

  15. February 22, 2009 7:53 am

    This looks wonderful! I love your hot cocoa tips, too. Once you start drinking good hot cocoa there is no going back to those awful hot water cocoa powder creations. I like your definition of hot cocoa. 🙂

  16. February 22, 2009 9:42 pm

    Lora – agreed!

    Diana – Ludgate Farms, near the airport, has it in 1-lb bulk packages; just another reason I adore that store!

    sue bette – that is a fantastic idea. I’m going to have to try that next time I make hot chocolate – I love the idea of a froth on top.

    Jendeis – it’s hard not to, hm?

    whitneyinchicago – it’s a deal! That place looks absolutely delicious…

    Kristin – yes, I only caught onto the paste tip a little while back, but it’s definitely a winner.

    Betsy – almonds would be a great variation; good idea!

    Amanda – thanks for stopping by; hope you enjoy!

    pigpigscorner – I think so too!

    Kasey – yes, but with the bonus of being 100% all natural…I do love nutella, but I try to overlook the fact that it has a smidge of artifical flavor in it (boo!)

    maggie – thanks!

    Meg – oh, wouldn’t that be a great invention?

    Mom – thanks 🙂

    amelia – ugh, I know, the lack of sun does get a bit old right around this time of year.

    Tiffany – I so agree! 🙂

  17. March 3, 2009 12:10 am

    This hot choc looks soo good! I will definately try this recipe!

  18. Mike permalink
    December 29, 2009 12:28 am

    Sounds great. What is the name of the hot chocolate cookbook if you don’t mind sharing?

  19. January 7, 2010 7:11 am

    This looks delicious I’ll try it tomorrow

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