Recipes for this Story
Hot Chocolate Master Blend
Classic Hot Chocolate with Frothed Egg Nog Milk
One Perfect Cup Classic Hot Chocolate
Candy Cane Cookies
Christmas Ale Pops
Hot Chocolate Marshmallow Cakes
Written and produced by Stephen Exel
Photographs by Anthony Tahlier
Chicago gets blustery in the winter, but that doesn’t stop its resilient natives from braving chilly temperatures to enjoy everything the city’s neighborhoods have to offer. Apropos of the season, that includes a stop at Hot Chocolate, chef Mindy Segal’s recently redesigned restaurant in Bucktown (just west of Lincoln Park). There you can experience the award-winning chef’s dessert “Study”—an exploration of one stellar ingredient turned into four mini-desserts.
“I wanted to give my guests one over-the-top dessert,” Segal says. “It’s all about a single ingredient intended to be savored as a collection of individual presentations.”
For Traditional Home readers, Chef Segal created an exclusive Study based on her restaurant’s name—four recipes using a rich homemade hot chocolate mix (her Master Blend). The indulgent mixture becomes the base for a warming fireside drink, a sandwich cookie sparkling with peppermint candy, a marshmallow-topped chocolate cake, and a chocolate ice cream pop laced with ale.
“I wanted to explore the craft and technique of using the Master Blend,” Segal says.
Segal polished her skills with Chicago culinary luminaries Judy Contino, Gordon Sinclair, and Charlie Trotter. Working with chef Michael Kornick at his show-stopping MK restaurant is where she gained her own renown. After opening her restaurant in 2005, a string of five James Beard Foundation nominations followed. This year, she was named Outstanding Pastry Chef.
Then came the epiphany. “I contemplated moving to a larger space. Then I realized we were focusing more on the artistry of cooking and I wanted to get back to the craft. The best thing to do was to make this space better,” she explains.
The interior was lightened and the space made airier with skylights and glass doors across the front. The dining room is now warm, cozy, and engaging. Revamping the space included revising the menu. Segal reversed traditional thinking, adding dishes to her savory menu that would best lead to a sweet finale. Consequently, guests are greeted at the door with shelves of fresh-baked cookies, brownies, kolachkes, and rugelach begging to be taken home.
Segal’s Hot Chocolate Study starts with a food processor and a master plan. Milk and bittersweet chocolates are blended together to create the basic hot chocolate mix. Parcel out the mix for a hot chocolate drink and ganache—the foundations for the cakes, cookies, and ice cream pops.
If you’re a chocoholic, you’ll want them all—no sharing allowed, Segal says—but each component stands on its own and can be prepared individually. Pack up a batch of Candy Cane Cookies or Master Blend Chocolate Mix to give as a hostess gift. Serve the cakes at a holiday gathering.
The recipes are simple to prepare. Segal is true to her word about the emphasis on proper technique, such as making sure ingredients are at the correct temperature. The quality of the chocolate, however, raises the bar for the seductive end results.
One thing is definite. A mug of Segal’s luxurious blend will enhance a solitary moment when winds are howling; a demitasse portion will provide an elegant fini to a holiday party. That’s chocolate heaven.