Belgian Hot Chocolate Recipe

wittamer hot chocolate

Due to a quirk in the way my website was initially set up, a short list of recipes on my Recipes page are in a format that I can’t alter. A friend suggested I get an intern to re-do the recipes, but I looked at the list and scoffed—heck, I want to remake everything there! So I’m going to be re-presenting some of the recipes from the archives, updating them over the next few months or so.

melting chocolates

One of the first recipes I put up on the site was a hot chocolate recipe from Wittamer, one of the best chocolate shops in Brussels. And let me tell you, there’s plenty of competition in that town.

The head chocolatier, Michael Lewis gave me this recipe, which they serve in their chic tea salon overlooking the place Sablon.

This recipe is simple enough to make anytime you’re looking for a hot chocolate fix. Which for me, is often. Especially in the winter. It uses a touch of milk chocolate, and you should seeks out a good-quality one. Most of the better ones lists the percentage of cacao on the label (often between 30-40%) and are likely to taste better than those bars where a small amount of chocolate is used basically as a colorant. I call them “dark” milk chocolate and they’re widely-available in lots of stores.

melting chocolate

This chocolat chaud is adapted from The Great Book of Chocolate, where there’s also a story about my time working at Wittamer, dipping chocolates all day, then wrapping things in lovely bows for the boutique. I was also fortunate enough to sample (re: sneak in when no one was looking) most of their rich, creamy chocolates: one bite and it’s a no-brainer to see why Wittamer is “the” classic Belgian chocolate.

Their hot chocolate? It’s no slouch either.

Wittamer’s Belgian Hot Chocolate
Print Recipe
Four to six servings
Adapted from The Great Book of Chocolate (Ten Speed)Although Michael told me this recipe serves four, I think the Belgians must have a high-tolerance for the amount of hot chocolate they can drink, and you might find it serves a few more than indicated. Leftover mix can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, and re-warmed in a saucepan or microwave oven.In Paris, most places use low-fat milk for their chocolat chaud, so you could likely use it here. I use whole milk. Or for more adult tastes, one could replace some of the liquid with strong coffee or add a hit of liqueur at the end, such as cognac or Chartreuse.
1 quart (1L) half-and-half or whole milk
8 ounces (230g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 ounces (115g) milk chocolate, finely chopped
tiny pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Warm about one-third of the half-and-half or milk, with the chopped chocolates and salt, stirring until the chocolate is melted.
2. Whisk in the remaining half-and-half or milk, heating until the mixture is warmed through. Add the cinnamon.
3. Use a hand-held blender, or a whisk, and mix the hot chocolate until it’s completely smooth. Serve very warm.
At Wittamer, it’s served with a poof of whipped cream and chocolate curls.

Speaking of hot chocolate, for those of you in New York, or within driving or flying distance, the month of February means it’s the annual City Bakery Hot Chocolate Festival. The flavors will be changing daily, and you can sip Maury Rubin’s hot chocolate with your friends by candlelight!


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  • Federric Gao
    January 29, 2009 5:10am

    I finally find you.~and glad to see you. Mr Lebovitz.

    I’m from Shanghai China.I saw your life story in Paris from TV. How wonderful life you have had!

    I’ll add your Website as my Favouring Web list!

  • January 29, 2009 5:30am

    David, I’m not sure whether to love you or hate you right now. My hot chocolate addiction has gotten out of control. I’m currently drinking a cup every evening and putting cocoa in my coffee every afternoon. I’m a lover of ALL types – the powders and mixes, the syrup, the melt your own chocolate.

    My greatest mistake one time when working in the kitchen was making coffee truffles and for some reason my truffle mixture broke. It’s wasn’t a large batch and rather than try to salvage it I made it into staff hot chocolate for the whole kitchen! (Yah, the savory cooks sneaked me some foie and seared lamb bits that night during service!)

    Anyway, this hot chocolate had a bit of coffee, liquer, cream (and butter – it was for truffles). By far the most decadent, delicious hot chocolate I have ever had.

    People always forget the pinch of salt – its the secret ingredient in good hot chocolate!

    Oh, I’ve decided I’m loving you right now and I’m going to have two cups of hot chocolate in your honor. Cheers!

  • Angelica
    January 29, 2009 6:03am

    This post is making me rethink my staying-in-all-day that I had intended. God knows I could do with a chocolate fix right now!

  • January 29, 2009 6:12am

    I used to think I didn’t like hot chocolate because the only way I had it was from a powdered mix, and it was always too sweet. Then I had the real thing, made from melted chocolate and that’s the only way I’ll drink it now. This looks yummy, thanks!

  • Sandra
    January 29, 2009 6:39am

    In this awful, awful cold and snowy New England and this,”the winter of our discontent” that recipe could make me awfully contented. Something very good, chocolate-y and very very soothing.

  • January 29, 2009 7:51am

    I’m in “Sunny Brazil” right now, but…it has been raining for three days =(
    A cup of that wonderful hot chocolate would greatly improve my mood.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • January 29, 2009 8:32am

    David, although I’m in summer this recipe is so tempting that I can take it right now and it’s hot here. As a chocoholic this is a visual feast with chocolate of high quality!

    I’d like to make this recipe in the chilled version (more appropriate for hot days) but I don’t know the result… Thanks for give me a sweet day :)

  • January 29, 2009 8:56am

    Living in belgium i am so lucky to have good quality of chocolate.
    I am sure going to make this for my daughter and her friends.

  • Ceylan
    January 29, 2009 9:03am

    Lovely recipe. Just like how my grandmo used to make me drink milk when i was small… However;

    Switzerland chocolate (Lindt) in a Belgian Hot Chocolate recipe?
    Thats pretty interesting. I hope the milk is Belgian -at least.

    I remember Mr. Lebovitz confusing the origins of ingredients before as well…
    (i.e. yogurt)

    Ceylan Pojon from Istanbul.

  • January 29, 2009 9:05am

    I may very well make this later today. And yes, I am going to add a little booze and coffee. Whatever gets you through, right?

    Let me know if you change your mind about the whole intern thing, David, and I’ll be on the first plane over!

  • January 29, 2009 9:10am

    Ceylan: The recipe is named because it comes from a chocolate shop in Belgium. Similarly, if a recipe is called All-American Brownies, I don’t think people expect the cacao in the chocolate, the sugar, and the vanilla beans in the extract to be sourced from within the United States.

    The same goes for the origin of ingredients in such items as New England Clam Chowder, salade Niçoise, Turkish coffee, Canadian bacon, Anzac biscuits, Irish coffee, and French fries.

    The dark chocolate tablets are from Barry-Callebaut, a French-Belgian alliance.

  • Eileen
    January 29, 2009 10:12am

    Gosh this looks good right now. The deep, deep cold here in Minnesota just won’t let up and hot chocolate is so comforting.

  • January 29, 2009 10:19am

    Oh my, this looks incredible. I might need it, pronto. I have some great valrohna 70% feves that I think would work.

  • January 29, 2009 10:31am

    One of the perks of living in the Midwest is that I don’t feel guilty at all making this for breakfast when it’s -3 outside.

  • January 29, 2009 10:59am

    This looks great! I love a little bit of cinnamon in my hot chocolate.

  • January 29, 2009 11:09am

    Mmmm, this looks fantastic! Yum.

  • January 29, 2009 11:19am

    This sounds like it would make a great dessert for a wintry Sunday night dinner as well. Thanks for the heads up on City Bakery…that’s a hard one to resist!

  • January 29, 2009 11:26am

    Oh my goodness! This looks wonderful-and perfect for the terrible weather we’ve been having in New England!

  • delphine
    January 29, 2009 11:52am

    oh dear, this looks much too good. I’ve been drinking a ridiculous amount of hot chocolate lately but I haven’t been making it from scratch.

  • January 29, 2009 11:57am

    The stuff of my chocolatey dreams…

  • January 29, 2009 12:04pm

    AH HA!
    This is EXACTLY it!
    REAL hot chocolate is made with shaved.cut up chocolate bars not powder!!!
    The stage at Wittamer sounds like a dream come true…
    And thank you for the Festival announcement!!!
    Oh just THANK YOU period :)
    Yr site refuses to remember my personal it just me? Hmmm…

    Hi Carol: I don’t know why that happens to some folks, and not others. It remembers mine. It may have something to do with cookies? (I mean, the kind in your computer!) -dl

  • annie
    January 29, 2009 12:59pm

    Have you ever tried Pierre Marcolini chocolates? He’s also based at the Sablon. I grew up in Brussels, but never *shock horror* enjoyed eating chocolates (note the ‘s’, I’ve always loved chocolate, would probably have my dual Belgian/Swiss nationality revoked otherwise) until I tried his. They are divine. I love Wittamer’s pastries (and the ice-cream cakes they sell at Christmas – almond milk ice cream, yum), but their chocolates just don’t do it for me.
    Have been reading this blog for ages but this is my first ever comment. Yours is one of the few food blogs I check every day!

  • January 29, 2009 1:14pm

    A tiny pinch of salt!!! That’s the key, isn’t it?

    I have been trying to reproduce the Chocolate Africain served at Angelina (blogged about here), ever since I got back from Paris. My attempts have all been very tasty, but not the same.

    Maybe it is the lack of Parisian lighting, or the smell and bustle of Paris that is missing. Perhaps it is the cru of my chocolate. Most likely it is the latter. But, I am going to give the pinch of salt a try. Perhaps then, if I close my eyes, if will almost be the same.

    I haven’t been to Brussels yet. That will be part of my next European excursion, for sure. Your experience sounds wonderful.

    Thank you for refreshing the recipe for us. I shall happily sample it with my next jones, and look forward to the rest.


    ~ Paula

  • Susan
    January 29, 2009 1:15pm

    I copied this recipe a few weeks ago when I copied your Best Chocolate Sauce. The sauce components I had available, so I made it..and my crush began! That sauce suspends so well in milk that I’ve not only used it in cold milk, but for hot chocolate as well and it is delicious. Sorry..I keep giving the sauce ovation after ovation on all these latest posts, but I’m so smitten! Now you’re turning my head with this one…so okay, already, I’ll move on. Are Lindt Chocolates good enough in this recipe?

  • Dawn in CA
    January 29, 2009 1:51pm

    A festival devoted to hot chocolate? Genius. If every city had that, I think we would be one step closer to world peace. :)

  • January 29, 2009 3:26pm

    The tiny pinch of salt (and sometimes not-so-tiny) is almost always the key to turning a good dessert into a great dessert:)

    I don’t know why more people don’t just melt chocolate in milk when they want hot chocolate. Those wee packets of powder should be banned:)

    Perhaps the merest pinch of cayenne would be a nice addition, as well.

  • January 29, 2009 3:55pm

    I cannot get through a cold winter day without a little bit of hot chocolate. Thanks for the easy recipe.

  • January 29, 2009 4:00pm

    How great is the 3rd pic…the spoon just caressing the chocolate into a melted status. This is no doubt the best way to make hot chocolate. The best.

  • January 29, 2009 4:11pm

    Where would you find the best Hot Chocolate in Paris? I’d heard about a place near the Tuilleries.

  • Linzy
    January 29, 2009 7:21pm

    I can intern for you!

  • Anna
    January 29, 2009 7:30pm

    aaaahhh… Angelina Cafe in Paris! Paula, you just made my head explode! Oh, that was the best hot chocolate — or chocolate anything — that I have EVER had!

    Well, OK, the fact that I was seated right next to the dessert case and stared at it for an entire hour of lunch surely helped. By the way, their Quiche Lorriane is fantastic, too.

    David — have you tied the hot chocolate at Angelina and is my rave justified? Like Paula I’ve not been able to replicate it back home here in NY and no one else in NY comes close to it either. I will try your recipe though — but only on a Sunday afternoon when I can nap for three hours right after!

  • January 29, 2009 9:17pm

    Oh no…. I panicked when I saw you were having some difficulty with the recipes. I mean, I SERIOUSLY BEGAN TO SWEAT BULLETS! I come to your site to hover over these lovelies, dive in when I feel brave, and stand tall when the final product is presented. My gosh, what if these babies were all gone?…I’d just have to volunteer to re-enter them for you. I’d do it free of charge, well, after the plane ticket to Paris and the front door stoop as my landing. You know….I’d probably have to beat a few hundred other folks off with my walking stick, but eventually I’d get to the rewrites for ya.

    P.S. I also work for chocolate. Especially if it’s hot chocolate. Especially if you brewed a bit of coffee and gave me a double-shot (Celebes or Yemen, but Costa Rican is okie-doke, too). ;)

  • January 29, 2009 9:29pm

    David: How timely that I just posted my hot chocolate recipe – which now looks quite powdered and lame. Sigh.

    I must drive 90 miles each way to get this chocolate you speak of but, until then, I’ll look at the pictures and point anyone who stumbles onto my redition to you.

    I’m not worthy.

  • January 29, 2009 9:38pm

    Don’t know if you can get Martha Stewart there…but the pastry chef from the new David Chang bakery Momofuku Milk Bar was on MSL – Martha also went to the bakery and made something called crack pie (like chess pie) with David Chang and Christina Tosi. I simply will have to try it.

    Anyway, it was worthy. They had a lot of really unusual offerings (like Peanut Butter cookies with Peanut brittle in them and some sort of a wicked looking banana hazelnut cake that was huge!) and Tosi also appeared in a later segment making Blueberries and Cream cookies that featured “milk crumbles” which they invented. They were powdered milk along with sugars and butter and a few other things that were baked and then crumbled and then stirred in.

    They also talked about this wild stuff they serve called Cereal milk. It’s basically cornflakes that they soak in milk and then push through a chinois (sp?) and serve.

    Anyway, it was pretty interesting and unique – check it out!
    Here’s a link to the recipes that they made today…recipes

    Oh and here’s a video link.

    Of course this has nothing to do with hot chocolate but I knew you would be interested.

  • January 29, 2009 10:10pm

    Oh, David…it’s bad enough that you make me miss Paris, that you spike my appetite constantly (my pants are pretty upset with you…and the elastic waistbands are getting impatient!), but now THIS?!! Rich, glorious, hot chocolate! With Wittamer?!! It’s getting cruel quite frankly.

    Oh, and then the reminder about City Bakery’s Hot Chocolate Festival? That, sadly, I have no means to attend? What are you a sadist? ;)

    Sweet, sweet, torturous bliss nonetheless!

  • Mireille
    January 30, 2009 2:35am

    Good hot chocolate, especially if it’s Belgian Hot Chocolate should not be missed. Another chocolate recipe! Merci!

  • Diana jim
    January 30, 2009 4:46am

    David! You rock my world, I’m a little meximerican living in France for little under a month and I love love love love your blog, it is fun AND super helpful!!!

    Keep up the good work!

  • January 30, 2009 11:31am

    David, have you tried a spiced hot chocolate? I used to work at a chocolate shop, too, and we made one by steaming whole milk, then adding dark chocolate pieces (we used Callebaut) and melting them in the hot milk with a cinnamon stick, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, a dash cardamom and a few cloves. Once the chocolate was melted, we’d briefly warm the whole thing up again and then strain out the spices before serving with whipped cream. Absolutely divine!

  • January 31, 2009 12:07pm

    dreamy, dreamy, dreamy.



  • February 2, 2009 12:35pm

    I am SO making this to relive my days visiting Belgium. While there I bought a couple hot chocolate sticks (sticks with chocolate to melt into hot milk) to give away as gifts. As soon as they were all gone, iI regretted not keeping one for myself! Argh. :)

  • February 2, 2009 11:40pm

    I made this for a post-skiing party, and damn it was good. Several men AND women fell in love with me right then and there. You’re absolutely right about real chocolate being much better than cocoa powder. Thanks!

  • February 6, 2009 7:57am

    Thanks for the wonderful story and the excellent recipe for the drink. It may be sacrilegious, but I added a hint of vanilla essence and some high quality ground chili powder to give the chocolate a more central american feel. I also want to try this recipe with some espresso to make the ultimate mocha latte. Cheers!

  • February 6, 2009 8:17pm

    I usually make my hot chocolate from cocoa powder, but this looks fabulous!

  • ryan
    February 11, 2009 2:44am

    That looks delicious.
    I will write it down and try it the next really cold day.

  • mummyl
    July 4, 2009 8:45am

    Wow, that looks and sound delicious!

  • Shannon
    August 3, 2009 7:35am

    I’m glad to have found this. There is a wonderful ex-pat Belgian chocolatier who has a shop just north of my hometown in Connecticut and I totally fell for his chocolat chaud. Now that I live in the UK (land of terrible, over-sweet and faux chocolate products) I miss my Belgian chocolat chaud fix. I’ll give this recipe a try as soon as I can find decent chocolate because while it may be summer, in Northern England that means it’s still hot chocolate weather.

    Speaking of which, Gera@Sweet Foods, the chocolatier of whom I write serves a chilled chocolate in summer. It’s slightly lighter and the chocolate does go a bit grainy but I love it anyway. I suggest you give chilling a try.

  • capecodder
    December 22, 2009 9:04pm

    you better not come round here thinking you can serve New England clam chowder with ingredients not New England. “thems fightin words in these parts”.

    Beer and Chocolate, no body does them like the Belgians (who cares about lace)

    I will try your recipe tonight!

  • January 21, 2010 9:01am

    I love Wittamer chocolate and am so glad I found this recipe. You’re right that you have to have a very high tolerance for rich chocolate to be able to drink very much of this, but it was so rich and chocolatey I just wish i could have kept going! Thanks for the recipe :)

  • December 7, 2010 2:48pm

    I’m partial to Callebaut, and I’m lucky I can find it here in Knoxville! Belgian dishes warm my heart and remind me of the four fabulous years I spent there :) I so miss the thick chocolat chaud with a speculoos cookie on the side! Thanks for sharing, can’t wait to give this a shot!