I realize that many of my east coast readers are experiencing their first taste of winter this week. What better time to whip out this classic.
Now when I talk about hot cocoa, I’m not talking about that packet you empty into your mug and fill with hot water. Please. I’m the starving artist – I don’t do packets. For me, hot chocolate is an art; the embodiment of winter comfort. It takes so little time, effort, and money to make it fresh. And there’s something about spending a few minutes at the stove to bring it together that brings such satisfaction. So put that packet down and let me show you the way.
All you really need to know for real homemade hot chocolate is the ratio 1:1:1. 1 cup of milk to 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to 1 tablespoon of sugar. Perfect hot cocoa every time. Now if you’re like me, you never have milk in your fridge, so what I do is buy one of those little plastic pint bottles for 99 cents, which is two cups (let’s be serious, you’re going to want to drink two cups worth. Besides most mugs are well over 1 cup). I always have cocoa powder and sugar in my kitchen, so really I’m getting servings to hot cocoa for 99 cents – not too shabby. To make, I get the milk heating over medium heat in a saucepan and whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Keep an eye on it and stir frequently until it just comes to a boil.
Now you could stop here and you’d have decent hot cocoa, but I take it a few steps further to make it extra special. First, I take about two teaspoons of corn starch, place it in a small lidded container, add about 1 tablespoon of water, put the lid on and shake vigorously to combine. This is called a slurry and it is meant to thicken. So, just as the hot cocoa comes to a boil, I add in the slurry, then I add in one small handful of semi sweet chocolate chips. Whisk until combined and thickened. Kill the heat and you’re ready to serve… unless…
Again, you could stop here and have amazing hot cocoa, but this is where you can really spice it up. A shot or two of Baileys is always a good thing. A few drops of vanilla extract would also work well. You could put in some peppermint Schnapps or you could put in a pinch of cayenne pepper for some heat. For this batch, I had a very special ingredient on hand that I found in the farmer’s market last week: chocolate mint. It’s a legitimate herb that tastes legitimately like chocolate mint. It’s amazing. After killing the heat I stirred in about 10 leaves and let it steep for about 5 minutes before serving. It was outstanding. Now I’m not proposing you go on a quest for chocolate mint – regular old mint you find at the grocery store will work beautifully here as well. Or, you can take a shortcut and just add a few drops of peppermint extract. Lovely.
Hope this helps to combat the snow! Recipe is in PDF format below