Last week I told you how I love warm drinks and might include some of my faves in November’s Foodist Fridays. Well here I am with our first warm drink: Hot Chocolate!
As with oatmeal and popcorn, I was shocked to discover that instant hot chocolate references something that once existed without a microwave. And as with those two, home-made hot chocolate is far superior to the powdered variety. Plus, it’s easy. And endlessly tweak-able.
For the most basic home-made hot chocolate, you’ll need milk, and either solid chocolate or cocoa powder & sugar. You can boost the flavor a variety of ways from there, but if you’ve got those on hand, you’re set.
(If you’re not making hot chocolate now, pin or bookmark this page to have ready when the mood strikes.)
DIY Hot Chocolate #1: from Powdered Cocoa
Making your own hot chocolate from powdered cocoa is basically making your own instant mix. Except that you don’t have to buy anything extra and you save a few extra packets from the landfill.
There are tons of recipes online for making your own hot chocolate mix. Pick one that intrigues you, or try this technique for “Starbucks” hot chocolate or this well-reviewed option from the other, more fabulous, AB. (Alton Brown, of course.)
Again, try and tweak, try and tweak. And always add the smallest pinch of salt. Don’t worry, a tiny pinch won’t make it salty. It makes it chocolatey. Yum.
DIY Hot Chocolate #2: from Solid Chocolate
No recipe here. Just a technique that you can tweak until you’ve got your own personal secret recipe.
- Milk (Start with 8oz. for one serving. Use full-fat milk; 2% only if you really must. You could also add real cream… mmm…)
- Chocolate (Start with 1-2 ounces of semisweet.)
- Add-ins (vanilla extract, powdered chilies, flavored syrup, peppermint schnapps etc.)
- Tiny pinch of salt
1) Chop the chocolate into shavings/small pieces. You want it to be able to melt quickly in step 3. Put it in a bowl large enough hold the milk.
2) Heat the milk. You can do this in the microwave, or over the stove where you can watch it more closely. Heat the milk just until it’s barely boiling. (If you’re using powdered chilies, stir a small amount into the milk now.)
3) Pour the hot milk over the chocolate. Let it sit a moment (10-20 seconds) and then begin to stir until all the chocolate melts. I often whisk mine because I like the extra bubbles. (If you’re using extract or syrup, add it now, starting with a small amount and then adding more to taste.)
4) Serve it up.
A Few Notes
There was a time when I wouldn’t have known how to go about adjusting recipe to my personal liking, so I’m offering a few extra thoughts for anyone who hasn’t experimented a lot in this way before. If you already know all about this, just skip on down to the next section.
Solid chocolate has varying degrees of sugar in it, from none at all (unsweetened chocolate) to milk chocolate (highly sweetened). “Dark” chocolate is on the unsweetened, or bittersweet side, but the actual amount of sugar can still vary quite a bit between brands. The darker the chocolate the more robust the chocolate flavor. I suggest starting with semi-sweet because it has a more chocolatey flavor than milk chocolate, but isn’t so bitter that it won’t agree with the average palette. If you already think you’d like a certain variety of chocolate, start with that instead. Just know that you can adjust the flavor by experimenting along this spectrum.
For foamier hot chocolate, steam the milk with a steamer instead of boiling it on the stove (just make sure it gets hot enough to melt the chocolate) or run the finished hot chocolate through a blender.
For thicker hot chocolate, whisk 1/2 tsp. of cornstarch into the milk when you first put it on the stove. Then, after step 3, return the hot chocolate to the stove over LOW heat just for a minute or two to help it thicken. (Have you ever had the Spanish hot chocolate? Now you know the secret.)
About great chocolate flavor
Vanilla and coffee both enhance the flavor of chocolate which is why recipes for brownies often call for vanilla or kahlua or espresso. I suggest adding a subtle amount to the finished product.
Salt brings out the flavor in things, including chocolate. Add just a little salt to everything you do with chocolate and you’ll get a better flavor. Of course, don’t salt so much that you can taste salt. That’s not the idea.
Chili and cinnamon are other great companion to chocolate. Try different varieties and see what you like.
Sugar comes to your hot chocolate in many ways; through the sugar you add, the solid chocolate you use, and any syrups you might add at the end. Particularly consider the degree of sugar in the chocolate you chose and how much of that chocolate you added as you experiment.
As with all food and drink creations, you’ll want to give it a first go, see what you think, and then adjust and try again. You might try a different quality ingredient, different ratios of ingredients, or different add-ins to see how each affects the flavor.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes!