December 13 is National Cocoa Day! Being December, it’s the perfect time for hot cocoa. Once the sun goes down, the air gets a chill and you just want to curl up with a cup of something warm. For me, I tend to go with hot tea more, but the rest of the household loves a cup of cocoa. Adrian loves to add mint or caramel and Jordan likes extra vanilla or a shot of creamer. When I want cocoa, I make Creamy Hot Cocoa and we all drink it just the way it is. There is just something about it we all love.
First, I feel the need for some clarification. Hot cocoa and hot chocolate are used pretty much interchangeably in the U.S., but they are not the same. Hot cocoa is a hot beverage made with cocoa powder, heated milk or water, and sugar. Hot chocolate is made with ground chocolate which contains cocoa butter. It’s mixed with hot milk and sweetener if desired and is actually a drinking chocolate. This is thicker and richer than cocoa. Conversely, National Hot Chocolate Day is January 31st. Now, you are better informed and know the difference!
Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder. Through one method of processing chocolate, the cocoa butter is separated leaving cocoa powder. It is this cocoa powder we use to make hot cocoa. It has very little fat and calories and is mixed with either hot milk or water. Until we add sweetener, hot cocoa is a low calorie drink and a great way to warm up on cold days.
There are also some health benefits of drinking cocoa. Cocoa contains significant amounts of antioxidants that may help prevent cancer. It has also been shown that the cocoa beans help with digestion. The flavonoids that are found in the cocoa also have a positive effect on arterial health. That being said, remember it is far better to make cocoa using cocoa powder than using the instant packets that are so popular in the U.S. The extra processing can remove some of those nutrients plus they add other things for flavor and to preserve it.
This weekend pick up some cocoa powder, if you don’t already have some stashed in the freezer which helps it last long past the use by date. Make your grocery list and make sure you have milk and marshmallows. Then meet me in the kitchen for a far better version of hot cocoa than any you can buy at the store!
Instant Cocoa Mix
Instead of buying packets, make your own and store it in the freezer to keep it fresh! Quality make a difference here. Do not buy generic.
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups powdered milk
In a large bowl, sift confectioner’s sugar, then unsweetened cocoa, to get rid of any lumps. Stir in powdered milk and whisk well until everything is combined. Place into large airtight container or several containers as single servings to use as gifts! If storing in one container, shake well before each use. Add mini marshmallows to the gift containers for even more fun. This can be kept in the pantry for 6 months or in the freezer for up to a year-if it lasts you that long. When you want to make hot cocoa, combine equal parts hot cocoa mix and hot water or milk. About a half cup each is how I like to enjoy it, but go slowly on adding the mix until it gets to how you like it. I like to put the hot cocoa mix in the cup and add hot liquid on top, and stir, in order to not get any lumps. Enjoy!
Note: Some think cocoa is too sweet with 2 cups of sugar. Feel free to reduce the amount if you don’t like your cocoa very sweet. Play with it and make it your own!
Creamy Hot Cocoa
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼-½ cup granulated sugar, more or less to taste
⅓ cup water
3½ cups milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup heavy whipping cream-my household likes the richness of heavy cream. If you would prefer, you can use half & half or even just more cold milk.
Bring water to just barely boiling in saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa and sugar and stir well. Bring this mixture to an easy boil while you stir. Reduce heat and simmer about 2 minutes continuing to stir. Watch that it doesn't scorch. Stir in milk and heat until hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Divide between 4 mugs. Add cream to mugs of cocoa to cool it to drinking temperature.
Caramel Hot Cocoa
2 cups milk
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup + 1 tsp powdered sugar
¼ cup caramel sauce
½ cup heavy whipping cream, if whipped topping is desired
Caramel sauce, for drizzling
In a medium saucepan, heat milk until hot but not boiling (you’ll start to see steam). Whisk in cocoa, 1/4 cup sugar, and caramel until smooth. Turn off heat. Pour into two mugs. In a cold medium bowl, beat cream until it starts to thicken. Gradually beat in remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form (when you pull beaters straight up, peaks form without falling over). Pipe on top of hot chocolate then drizzle with caramel sauce.
Recipe adapted from chocolatemoosey.com
Frozen Hot Cocoa
You may not be like me and like more frozen things in winter, but you can save this recipe for a hot summer day and still enjoy it!
1½ cups chocolate almond milk
½ cup heavy cream, optional-I like the extra creaminess.
1 cup dry hot cocoa mix, flavor and brand of choice or use mix above
3-4 cups ice-you can also make cocoa and then freeze it so it doesn’t water down the cocoa or use frozen milk cubes
Whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles or shavings, for garnish, if desired
Add milk, cream, hot cocoa mix and ice, in order listed, to blender and process until as smooth as desired. Pour into glasses and top with whipped cream and chocolate shaving/sprinkles, if desired.
Recipe adapted from melskitchencafe.com.
Melting chocolate or chocolate morsels
Mini marshmallow, if desired
Homemade cocoa mix
You will also need a double boiler or melting pot, a spoon or two and a silicone mold large enough to make something you can fill and small enough to go into your mug. A brownie pop mold works great.
Melt chocolate. If using a double boiler, place enough water in the bottom to not touch the top pan, but you also don’t want the water to evaporate out. Add chocolate to top pan and stir frequently until melted. If using a melting pot, add chocolate to pot and stir occasionally until ready to use. Once melted, place spoonful of chocolate into each cavity and use the back of the spoon to coat the sides well. Once coated place mold in freezer to harden the shell. Allow 20-30 minutes if using chocolate morsels, about 15 minutes if using melting chocolate. Remove mold from freezer. Stretch mold slightly on the sides to pull the mold away from the chocolate. Turn mold over and remove each shell onto a piece of parchment paper. This allows you to check the shell for any holes that may need to be covered. Since you are filling it, you want to make sure it is a solid shell. Place shell back in mold and add marshmallows if desired and fill with cocoa mix leaving enough room to place a bottom on the shell. Cover powder carefully with more melted chocolate and return to freezer to harden. To make cocoa, heat milk. Place cocoa bomb in mug and pour hot milk over it. Stir and enjoy!