It is important to understand there is a big difference between cocoa and hot chocolate. Cocoa is made from cocoa powder, it is nasty and bitter and makes a drink the equivalent of Satan’s bile. Proper hot chocolate is made from shaved bits of chocolate. I would insist on “good quality chocolate” but if I’m not fussy you shouldn’t be either. Do try for the good stuff though as you need less of it to make it taste good and you will be less likely to be sick afterwards. Always a positive.
You can buy ready-shaved chocolate (expensive) or shave your own. This is fun and means there is usually a wonky shaped piece left over that just has to be eaten. Of course the chocolate shavings can also be eaten (with a spoon, if you please) but since laying on the couch and groaning with a whole tin of chocolate inside you is the likely result, this practice is unrecommendable. Don’t ask me how I know.
There are many many hot chocolate powders on the market. I have no objection to any of them. However, some of the powders say you just need to add water. Lash out, live like a wild thing lurching towards the abyss of oblivion and use MILK. Full cream or skim, who cares, it will be better than water.
Hot chocolate options
I’ve seen recipes saying add sweet butter before serving. I don’t even know what that is. You could also throw in a pork rind too if fat is your thing. No that part was a joke, don’t do it. I also stumbled upon one recipe for banana hot chocolate. I think that might be an actual crime. If not a crime against humanity, then a crime against hot chocolate. I’m looking into it <flicks through lawbooks>.
Some say there is no right or wrong—it’s whatever recipe you prefer. But there is right and wrong > banana hot chocolate is wrong.
Let’s be clear: hot chocolate is not a health drink. Do not try to make it a health drink.
Acceptable additions to hot chocolate are:
- cinnamon: stir hot chocolate with a cinnamon stick. Don’t accidentally mix it up with the oleander sticks you save for those unexpected guests.
- liqueur: whatever you like. Add Grand Marnier or Framboise or make your hot chocolate “just a little bit mocha” with the addition of coffee-flavoured Kahlua. Bailey’s Irish Cream also works quite nicely. Whatever liqueur you choose, start with a tablespoon per cup. Then a tablespoon for you. Then one for the next cup… then one for you… and so on. If you are making drinks for more than four people you might need to enlist help as it is hard to carry that tray when you are laying on the kitchen floor singing “How do you solve a problem like Maria?”.
- mint: you can put actual mint leaves in the milk when you heat it up. Don’t forget to strain them out of you’ll be doing an impersonation of the cat who ate too much grass, never mind that it was “cat grass”.
- Chili: Well, yes, some people quite like a bit of a kick to their hot chocolate. Let’s just say too much chili and you’ll have a story that will go down in legend and be written up in the Bowel Cleanse Annual 2010. How much is too much? Trial and spectacular error I’m afraid. I’d recommend “none at all”. I like my drycleaner and I want to keep her.
- Last but not least — a whole packet of mini marshmallows
If you want to get fancy you can rim the glass margarita-style with chocolate flakes. This seems a pretty good way to get that ring of chocolate confidence all over your face. You can add brandied cherries to a side plate, you can stir the hot chocolate with a peppermint stick, add whipped cream or don’t add whipped cream.
Whatever you do, garnish with a great big chocolaty smile and enjoy. You may as well.
This gorgeous baby is from the Flickr stream of Animesh Singh and I think shows what we all feel like when we are really and truly enjoying something.
Hot chocolate image at top is from the Flickr stream Sebastian Mary