Spiced Chocolate Soup

Serves 4

• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• Pinch of salt
• 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 7 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 3 cups milk
• 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns, crushed

To make the caramel whipped cream:
1. Place a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Sprinkle 5 tablespoons of sugar into the pan, a little at a time; adding more as the sugar melts. When the sugar has melted and turned a deep golden brown, carefully add the butter, salt, and 1 cup of the heavy cream. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer to a bowl, refrigerate, covered, at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.

2. Transfer the chilled cream mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until medium peaks form. Remove bowl from mixer, and refrigerate.

To make the soup:
1. Place chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring the milk and the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the crushed peppercorns, and remove from heat. Cover, and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes to infuse.

2. Strain the milk mixture through a fine sieve into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Pour over the chocolate, and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Strain
through a fine sieve into a medium bowl.

To serve:
Ladle the soup into 4 warm bowls. Serve topped with a dollop of the caramel whipped cream.

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