The Best-ever Hot Cocoa
Are you ready to make the world's best hot cocoa? Then get your taste-buds ready and prepare for a chocolate onslaught. Whether you like your chocolate rich and dark or light and sweet, you'll be able to adjust the following recipe to suit your palate.
Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder. This sets it apart from hot chocolate, which is made from blocks of chocolate or the French mixture called couverture. Cocoa powder is made when chocolate liquor is pressed in order to remove three-quarters of the cocoa butter. The remaining solids are processed into the fine brown powder we all grew up with. Commercial cocoa mixes vary in the amount of other ingredients that are added, mainly powdered mil, sugar, and thickeners.
Make a Great Cup
Depending on what you like, you can adjust any cocoa powder to create a fabulous cup of cocoa. Most people prefer cocoa that's made with hot milk instead of hot water. Using hot milk results in a creamier cup that tastes rich and thick.
If you like milk chocolate, you'll probably prefer your cocoa made with hot milk and plenty of sugar. For a truly decadent cup, substitute half heavy cream and half whole milk for the milk. You can make a lighter cup by using nonfat or skimmed milk.
Rich chocolate lovers will want to skip the sugar in favor of adding more dark chocolate. Try this trick, purchase the highest quality mini dark chocolate chips you can find and sprinkle them in your cup. Be sure to use very hot water and stir well.
Variations on a Good Thing
If you get bored with plain old cocoa, then you're ready to spice things up! Start your tour through the world of spicy cocoa by adding chili pepper to create Mexican chocolate. Hot chocolate originated in South America and was originally drunk by the Aztecs, who mixed roasted and ground cacao beans with vanilla and honey. The Mayans and Zapotecs added chili pepper and allspice to their cups. Note that these early drinks didn't include any sugar or cream -- just rich, dark chocolate and spices.
You can also have fun with your cocoa by adding a little flavored syrup. The same syrups that add a touch of vanilla, caramel, or Irish cream flavor to lattes and other coffee drinks are also great in cocoa. Or you can add warmth to your campfire cocoa by pouring in a touch of peppermint schnapps, Bailey's Irish cream, Grand Marnier, or other liqueur.