Ingredients 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts 4 1/2 cups milk, preferably whole or reduced fat 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 1/4 cup hot water 4 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped (I always go for dark!) 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or 1/4 cup Frangelico liqueur
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, in a single layer, and roast until golden and skins are beginning to crack, about 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then finely chop (a food processor makes quick work of this step.)
Bring the milk and chopped hazelnuts to a boil over medium heat in a large heavy saucepan. Turn the heat off and let the mixture steep for 30 minutes, so the hazelnuts infuse the milk with their flavor.
Meanwhile, whisk the cocoa, brown sugar, and water together in a small bowl to make a paste.
After the milk has finished steeping, heat it up again over medium heat until it begins to steam. Whisk in the chopped chocolate and the cocoa-sugar paste, until the chocolate is melted. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla (or Frangelico, if using.)
Strain the hot chocolate into 4 mugs. Top with softly whipped cream and additional chopped hazelnuts, if desired.