Autumn. Shorter daylight hours. Hot chocolate.
Need I say more?
Ok, in this age of hot cocoa coming from an instan-drink box and having, thus, lost its appeal to those above age twelve, perhaps I do.
I love hot cocoa and hot chocolate (the two drinks are not the same, though they can be drunk rather interchangeably – it’s the composition that differs***), but I rarely make either one at home. Why? Well, usually because when I reach for a hot drink, I want my fix of caffeine, or something to go with dessert – whereas these two are dessert in themselves. But this is not me trying to tell you when to or not to drink anything. Rather, I suspect I am just being my under-caffeinated self and thus babbling.
***Note: The difference beetween hot chocolate and hot cocoa is that hot chocolate is made from actual shaved chocolate – meaning, it has the cocoa butter in it. Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, which had the cocoa butter removed from it – making the drink no less wonderful, especially if you have full-fat milk or cream on hand. Or, preferably, both.
Where was I? Ah right, hot cocoa. You should make it. It’s rich, it’s luscious, it satisfies the chocaholic in
you me, and it’s easy to put together from on-hand stuff. To me, it’s an instant (or well, taking a few minutes, but nevermind that!) fix of a dessert when there is absolutely no dessert at home, and I can’t be bothered to bake. I don’t know about you but I always have milk at home, and heavy cream (it keeps well and goes into many good things!), and there is always a box of cocoa lurking in the back of my pantry even when the supplies of chocolate have dwindled (or else I may just dwindle those on their own right out of existence!).
If you have that, a pot and a whisk, you have the makings of really good hot cocoa – and with a few other storecupboard things like vanilla sugar and the booze of your choice (Rum! Rum is amazing in cocoa, says I… you can plonk in what you like!), it becomes a really, really amazing thing on a darkening autumn (or winter!) evening.
So, how do you make hot cocoa? I do not recommend microwaving the milk. One, because then you’d have to pour it into a pot anyway, and two, because milk can heat unevenly, form a film on the surface while the bottom is cold, etc. Not worth the bother.
- Put your milk into a small cookpot and start heating it on medium heat. While WATCHING it and stirring it with a whisk. THE ENTIRE TIME. I really mean it – my beloved boyfriend had near-ruined three perfectly good pots by putting milk into them, putting that on the heat and promptly burning it to the bottom of the pot by ignoring it. So, watch the milk.
- When the milk begins to steam gently and foams some when beaten with a whisk and it hot to touch when you touch it with a finger, it is hot enough. You do not want to boil it. Turn heat down to medium-low and add 1 slightly-heaping teaspoon of cocoa powder per each 1dl of milk, whisking furiously after each spoonful. To avoid the cocoa clumping, don’t dump the entire spoon into the milk but scatter the cocoa a little, and whisk-whisk-whisk.
- After whisking all the cocoa in, add the desired amount of sugar or arificial sweetener (I go for the latter), whisk until sugar is dissolved completely, and turn heat to minimum to keep the cocoa warm.
- In the meantime, whip 1 dl of cream with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar (I use real-vanilla vanilla sugar, but heck, use what you’ve got. Or a drop of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of powdered sugar if that’s what you have.) until soft peaks form.
- Stir the cocoa, mix in 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite booze per each 2.5dl (1 cup), turn off the heat, and ladle it into your mugs.
- Top with whipped vanilla cream.
Drink. Achieve cozy cat-on-blanket state of bliss.