Wednesday, February 8, 2012

MAKING VIETNAMESE CINNAMON HOT CHOCOLATE; PART I

When I got to the store this morning, the infusion I started last night with Vietnamese cinnamon had gone nowhere. Barely a sign of cinnamon life, no cinnamon personality, no cinnamon sweet, no cinnamon bite. This meant the preceding 12 hours were completely wasted, and I needed a 12-hour fix on a 30-minute deadline. It also meant that 10 minutes into my day, I couldn't have been more pissed off at myself.

My want for this hot chocolate was smooth and milky sweet with just a little sting at the end. I wanted this to be less about the chocolate and much more about the cinnamon. The Vietnamese cinnamon I had in hand was equally sweet and spicy, potent in a great way, and I wanted to show off both sides.


For many years running, I've used cinnamon sticks to make the Cinnamon Hot Chocolate. This year, for no reason I could remember in the morning, I wanted to try powder instead of sticks. Time wise, since I was already slightly screwed, the powder was actually a help. But...

Trying to get strong flavor out of too few minutes to work with is not a good place to be. I sifted more cinnamon into a large stock pot and checked the clock. There was enough time to get the cinnamon to register, but no time to get the cinnamon to a smooth place where I wanted it to be and knew it would be delicious. 

The first batch went out, a thousand percent disappointing, and I was wearing my annoyance. Gerardo, our lead savory cook, walked into the kitchen and instead of saying "Good Morning" to me as usual, said instead: "What's wrong?" 

Nothing about that first batch was good. It was plenty of cinnamon, but crude and listless. To add insult to cinnamon injury, the powder came around to spite me: even though it had been been strained two times, the fine powder managed it's way into the final drink. I will say only that "chewy" is not a quality I seek in City Bakery hot chocolate. 

Stay tuned for tales of later batches, later in the day.....

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