It's Time to Break Up With Hot Cocoa Mix
Winter and warm beverages go hand-in-hand during the winter. From a hot cup of tea, coffee with a dash of coffee liquor or Irish cream, or my personal favorite, hot chocolate, they all pair well with a good book and a fireplace. While packets of a cocoa mix are convenient for camping or traveling, you’re selling yourself short. You deserve a luxurious homemade cup of hot chocolate enhanced with sea salt, brown sugar, and spices to warm you. I understand it may be a tough breakup with hot cocoa; after all, many have spent most of our lives together. But I promise you, the split is worth it. It’s time to kick hot cocoa to the curb and find a new love this winter.
What's the Difference Between Hot Cocoa and Hot Chocolate?
On the surface, the only difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate is technicality. Hot cocoa consists of a mix of cocoa powder and added ingredients mixed with water or milk. On the other hand, hot chocolate contains milk, cream, melted chocolate, and natural spices. So if they’re similar, why make homemade versions? Well, it all comes down to what hot cocoa has added to it.
Depending on the brand, most hot cocoas contain preservatives, artificial flavors, coconut oil (which can be an allergen,) corn syrup, and modified whey to prevent clumping if mixed with water. Hot cocoa loses its appeal the more I read the ingredients. Not to mention hot cocoa also has a lot of added sugar for sweetness. Hot chocolate takes advantage of the sugars already present in the chocolate chosen—the darker the chocolate, the less sugar present. Creating your hot chocolate provides complete control of the ingredients and flavors!
What Goes Into Homemade Hot Chocolate?
My recipe uses both whole milk and heavy cream for the base. I prefer bittersweet chocolate that is 70% cacao, as it still has some sweetness from the sugar added but has a darker and more bitter flavor profile than milk or semisweet chocolate. To add layers of flavor, I combine sea salt, vanilla extract, brown sugar for a touch of sweetness, cinnamon, and a small amount of chili powder for warmth. It creates a rich blend of flavors with a touch of spice and warms you even on the coldest winter nights. And for those wishing to make an adult version, it blends well with vodka, coffee liquor, Irish cream, and even tequila! Oh yes, tequila hot chocolate is absolutely a thing.
How to Make Hot Chocolate
The Ultimate Hot Chocolate
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 6 oz. dark chocolate At least 70% cacao, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. chili powder
- ⅛ tsp. sea salt Or 1/4 tsp table salt
- Finely chop the chocolate. The smaller the pieces, the more quickly they will melt into the milk and cream. A shorter melting time will help prevent the milk or chocolate from scalding. Set the chocolate aside.
- Over medium-low heat warm a 3-quart saucepan.
- Add the milk, cream, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, chili, and salt to the saucepot. Whisk to combine the ingredients.
- Continue to stir over medium-low heat until wisps of steam start to form. Add the chopped chocolate, and stir to combine.
- Whisk every few minutes until the chocolate has fully dissolved into the milk. You can increase the heat to medium, but use caution if you do. Milk and chocolate on the bottom of the pan can scald easily.
- Once the chocolate has fully melted, serve immediately.
Create a Hot Cocoa Bar at Your Next Gathering!
This recipe is perfect not only for a date night with a movie and blankets but also as a hot cocoa bar! If making a larger batch of hot cocoa, I will transfer the hot chocolate to an insulated carafe. A carafe will help keep the chocolate hot without running the risk of the saucepot remaining over low heat and scalding. If you don’t have a carafe with a lid, you can place the saucepot on a trivet with a tight-fitting lid. I’ll set the carafe next to a tray, or lazy Susan filled with toppings to add. Some of my favorites are:
- Mini marshmallows, of course.
- Candy canes, either whole or crushed
- Chocolate shavings. You can create curls by using a vegetable peeler
- Whipped cream
- Caramel sauce
- Chocolate sauce
- For those over 21, display liquors nearby for creating spiced hot cocoas!
It’s a simple spread but one your guests will not forget! As the hot chocolate cools, a film of chocolate will form on the surface, and the chocolate will begin to thicken. You can stir the chocolate to remove the film and warm it again if it begins to thicken.
Storage and Reheating Instructions
If you have leftover hot chocolate, store it in an airtight container in the fridge once cooled. You can store leftovers for up to three days or the milk or cream expiration date, whichever comes first. When reheating, the best way is to heat hot chocolate is on a stovetop in a small pan. If you are short on time, you can reheat in a microwave on medium powder in thirty-second intervals. Stir in between intervals to ensure the milk and chocolate don’t burn.