In my world, few things make a morning more tolerable, maybe even a tad joyful, than a steaming cup of homemade hot cocoa. I actually somewhat look forward to the cold winter mornings for this very reason. Perhaps this means I need to investigate the possibility of getting a life, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with being amused by the smaller, simpler pleasures, right?
- Community garden in Harlem that I spotted on a recent walk. Sadly, this sliver of property, sandwiched in between brownstones, is for sale. I wish it could stay as it is–a wonderful seasonal space.
It’s fun to play around with the flavorings of hot chocolate. Like my Persian Hot Chocolate–dark chocolate infused with cardamom and saffron. Here are my tips on how to make the perfect cup:
- Always use the highest quality cocoa powder (or nibs, or whatever) you can find. Droste’s is a good brand that costs a bit more, but I find worth it.
- Go with unsweetened if possible. Just try it! Dark and unsweetened is my personal favorite. You can always add sweetness to your taste. Who knows, you may come to love, as I sometimes do, a cup of unsweetened hot cocoa.
- Use milk for a rich and creamy taste, but definitely consider dairy alternatives. Some of my favorite hot chocolate “base” milks are coconut milk, hazelnut milk, almond milk, and rice milk.
- Have fun and get creative flavoring your drink. Take a hint from coffeehouses. Mint mocha? Mint hot chocolate! Hazelnut flavoring? Hazelnut hot choc. Chai Latte? How about a Chocolate Chai Latte? In fact, let’s do that now:
Hot Chocolate Chai Latte
For one serving:
- 8 ounces milk of choice
- 2 generous Tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 Chai tea teabag OR a quarter-sized chunk of fresh ginger, a few black peppercorns, and a cinnamon stick (or a teaspoon of cinnamon powder)
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)
- Sweetener of choice (stevia, sugar, etc)
1. Warm a non-reactive sauce pan under low heat. Add in chocolate and lightly “toast” for 20-30 seconds over low heat to bring out the flavors.
2. Add in one-third of the milk and whisk until chocolate is lump-free and well-dissolved into the milk.
3. Add in the rest of the milk and whisk again. If using the teabag, add it in now. Or, add in the fresh ginger, peppercorns, and cinnamon. This allows the spicy flavors to infuse.
4. Do not boil, but cook on low heat until the edges of the milk start to bubble.
5. Stir in vanilla (if using) and remove from heat. Pour into serving cup of choice.
6. If using sweetener, sweeten to taste and enjoy!