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Serves 8

5 cups half-and-half (see Kitchen Note *)

1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise

8 ounces Mexican chocolate, cut into chunks (see Kitchen Note **)

¼ cup natural cocoa powder

1 to 2 teaspoons ancho chili powder or ½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder, or to taste

3 tablespoons honey

Whipped cream for garnish

Optional: 1 to 2 tablespoons slivered toasted almonds for garnish

1. In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, combine half-and-half with vanilla bean. Heat until the mixture comes to a simmer.

2. Reduce heat to low and add chocolate and cocoa powder. Whisk to combine. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes or until mixture coats the back of a spoon. Watch closely so that it does not boil over. Add chili powder, a little at a time, to taste. Stir in honey and blend. Discard vanilla bean.

3. Pour hot chocolate into cups and top with whipped cream and toasted almonds, if using.

Times Kitchen Notes:

* Fat-free half-and-half can replace 2 to 3 cups of the regular half-and-half in this recipe. Watch carefully when heating; if it comes to a boil it may separate because of the reduced fat level.

** Ibarra brand Mexican chocolate can be found in many grocery stores with other Mexican foods. The chocolate is very hard and difficult to cut; use a sharp, heavy knife and insert

the point into one of the separations between the wedges. It melts fairly easily, so it’s not necessary to chop it finely. You’ll need about 2-½ tablets of the chocolate for this recipe.

From “Hot Chocolate: 50 Heavenly Cups of Comfort” by Fred Thompson