Our Favorite Things: Jacques Torres Classic Hot Chocolate

The New York pastry chef's signature quaff makes a great holiday party gift.

The rectangular orange-and-brown tin may look unassuming, but the deep, dark shavings of chocolate inside are the stuff hot cocoa dreams are made of.

The secret seems to be in shaved chocolate rather than powdered cocoa, and the ratio of 1/4 cup shavings to 1/2 cup steamed 2 percent milk. Whole milk and half-and-half elevate the decadence factor, but 2 percent is fine (it's not about the milk, but the chocolate).

At his shops/factories in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, Torres, who was the pastry chef at Le Cirque for a time, also makes a variation called Wicked Hot Chocolate spiked with ancho and chipotle chilies. It has its moments, but purists who like their chocolate intense and unadulterated will balk. What holiday hostess with a gaggle of houseguests still lingering the morning after wouldn't want some of Torres' Classic on hand? With enough aplomb she might even be able to pass off the thick, luxurious elixir as breakfast.

Jacques Torres Classic Hot Chocolate, $18 for an 18-ounce tin at area Balducci's stores and at