Chef Daddy Makes Stuff Your Kids Will Like: Hot Chocolate
January 18, 2010Posted by andrew |
On cruddy, rainy, windy days like this, everyone loves a steaming cup of hot chocolate. It's a comforting way to warm up, and a nice treat for kids and grownups alike. Out of those little packets of Swiss Miss that hang out in the back of your kitchen cupboard (or used to)? Don't worry—making hot chocolate from scratch is way easier than it sounds, and uses only a few simple ingredients. In fact, we actually tried out a few different recipes in our kitchen as we searched for the best hot chocolate ever.
Did you know that chocolate, in its first form, was consumed as a drink? Spanish conquistador Cortés found chocolate being consumed at the court of Aztec emperor Moctezuma, and the Aztecs in turn adopted the custom of drinking chocoloate from their Maya neighbors to the south. The big difference was that the native Mexicans drank their chocolate cold, mixed with cornmeal and flavored with various herbs and hot chilis.
At some point after chocolate arrived in Europe in the 1500s, some enterprising soul decided to ditch the chili pepper and mix this new food with milk and sugar, creating what we know today as hot chocolate. In fact, hot chocolate was quite a craze in 17th- and 18th-century Europe, with chocolate shops popping up all over, not unlike Starbucks and other coffee shops today.
So what turned out to be our favorite recipe? We've got two, actually. The first is for hot cocoa. We use the terms "hot cocoa" and "hot chocolate" pretty much interchangeably, but technically, hot cocoa refers to a drink made with cocoa powder and hot chocolate the version made with actual chocolate with the cocoa butter intact.
To make hot cocoa from scratch, start with the following ingredients, which you probably have in your pantry already:
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- a pinch of kosher salt
- a couple drops of vanilla extract
- 1 tablesoon water
- 1 cup (8 ounces) milk
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, and water. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture combines into a chocolate-syrup-like liquid. Add milk to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Heat until milk is hot. (Don't boil it, of course.) Serves one.
Our other favorite recipe is probably the simplest: Mexican hot chocolate. Since Mexico is the original home of chocolate, it stands to reason that its citizens know a thing or two about how to make really good hot chocolate. Mexican hot chocolate can be purchased in pretty much any grocery store. It comes in a little hexagonal yellow box, and is in the form of flat disks of dark chocolate. The chocolate itself has kind of a grainy texture, so it's not like a chocolate bar, even though it kind of looks like one. What makes Mexican hot chocolate really special is the addition of cinnamon, and a frothy texture that's more a question of technique than ingredients.
There are two readily available brands in the US: Abuelita (which is made by international chocolate comglomerate Nestlé) and Ibarra. I opted for the latter, as the ingredients comprised only cocoa nibs, sugar, and cinnamon flavoring, and the Nestlé kind had a bunch of artificial stuff listed on the label.
To make traditional Mexican hot chocolate, heat one cup of milk and combine with two wedges of chocolate in a blender. Blend until all the chocolate is dissolved and the resultant mixture has a frothy consistency. Traditionally, it's frothed with a wooden whisk-like tool called a molinillo, but since you probably don't have one in your gadget drawer, a blender will do just fine.
Now go forth and make yourself some hot chocolate!