New York City has claimed its latest victim: City Bakery has permanently closed its doors. It’s rare that the closing of a small businesses becomes near-national news, and it’s understandable that those of you who have never tasted the mythical hot chocolate don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Back in the olden times, before Cronuts and Instagram and this egg salad sandwich, the only way you could captivate New Yorkers’ taste buds was by creating food that was beyond exceptional. City Bakery’s hold on New Yorkers was so great that they’d gladly form long lines out the door for the bakery’s hot chocolate in the brutal cold of February, when the streets turn into rivers of frigid, grey slush, and the cabs still refuse to slow down. Just like Macy’s and Tiffany’s and the Times Square Sbarro, City Bakery was a true New York City icon.
City Bakery made drinking what is pretty much a giant 16-oz. cup of melted chocolate socially acceptable. And it wasn’t just any chocolate, but rather coverture: A chocolate of exceptional quality with a high percentage of cocoa butter which, when blended with high-fat dairy, creates a beverage that makes your eyes roll back in your head and causes a brief loss of consciousness. It’s something my husband Matt—a former City Bakery employee—used to win my heart, and it’s still what he’s used to win back my favor after he’s done something stupid. I fall for it every time. Such is the power of this hot chocolate.
Though it may be hard to believe, Matt’s version is a bit lighter than the original recipe, which involved more heavy cream. If you want to lighten it still, you can use whole milk for everything, but don’t consider using low-fat anything—if you’re worried about fat content, you’re better off not making hot chocolate. What you cannot skimp out on is the chocolate: Use the absolute best kind you can afford, and don’t go looking in the supermarket baking aisle. Find the chocolate bars you like eating on your own as a treat, and then buy the ones that are a bit better than that. You’re probably going to want to light some candles and put on some slow jams before you drink this, too. You don’t become an icon by selling a beverage—you become an icon by selling a whole mood.
Matt’s City Bakery-Style Hot Chocolate
- 2 cups half and half
- 2 cups whole milk
- 8 oz. high quality milk chocolate, chopped
- 8 oz. high quality semisweet dark chocolate, chopped
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
In a large saucepan, bring the half and half and whole milk up to a near boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Add chocolate a bit at a time while continuously whisking, letting it melt completely before each addition. Once all the chocolate has been added and warmed through, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla. Pour into mugs and serve immediately.