Times like these are rare. (No, not ‘the unprecidented times.’) This day has brought winter across America, both literally and figuratively as it would turn out. Times like these call for comfort, for cocoa. We need to warm up inside.
The best cocoa is home made. This makes it flexible and customizable so it accomodates any diet. If you don’t think you can make cocoa because you don’t have a mix or packets, this is a good day to learn something new.
First, look for chocolate, any chocolate, all the chocolate you could want to to use for this project. This means baking chocolate, powder and/ or solid are great choices, as are cacao powder, soltojuchocolate candy bars (use anything you think will dissolve in milk at your own risk if you want to experiment with chocolate and toffy or nougat, or whatever). This is a great use of those super dark and bitter baking squares that you normally use to trick kids into eating, just store or maybe make brownies. Chocolate chips of all varieties are fabulous for this. Mixing in a little white chocolate will enhance sweetness and richness. Caramel or butterscotch (chips) can be mix in flavors. Chocolate syrup can be used. While your at it, look for any syrup or honey to use if your chocolate requires a sweetener and you don’t have or want to use white sugar. As we move along to sweeteners, they are only required if your chocolate is unsweetened or has low sweetness. Sugar substitutes you may use and be familiar with will probably be just fine, so are Xyletol, brown sugar or maple syrup. For one cup of hot chocolate, use ~2 Tbsp of sugar, honey, syrup or sweetened condensed milk. If you’re making a batch, use ~1/4 cup in 4 cups of milk. *Pro-tip: You can always add more in but you can’t get it out again.
Did you find a chocolate combo you can make? Do you have any chocolate spread, like Nutella? This works too. If you still don’t, you can use a chocolate cake or brownie mix (some are better than others and you can make it too thick in heat but you will still probably drink it all…most maybe?). Perhaps a better option for the mix is cake in a cup.
Next is the milk or milk substitute of your choice. Each person will need 1 – 1 1/2 cups (170-200 grams) of milk for a serving. If you find some milk, but not enough, see if there is any powdered milk or buttermilk, maybe in your baking cupboard. You can make a blend of what you have to make your cocoa. This may include half and half, heavy cream, some dairy, some non-dairy, canned milk (beware of sweetened condensed milk- only use this if it replaces sweetener equal to the measurements of sugar) and / or whatever you want to drink. Make the combination rich enough for your taste and mix any powdered milk in the water before you add it in with the rest. The best part is, you only need enough for one if you’re only serving yourself. The instructions are going to be applicable to any measurements.
You have now found all your requisite ingredients: sweetened chocolate or unsweetened chocolate with a sweetener, and milk. You may opt to also add something like vanilla, cinnamon or cardamom. If you are making cocoa for one, you can heat your milk in a mug in the microwave but you will appreciate the effort it takes to use a pan on the stove.
If you have a whisk, use it to mix. Otherwise, a long handled spoon is fine. You will need to stir continuously once you add the chocolate.
Heat your milk in a saucepan sufficient to hold the volume you want and allow you room to stir and mix. Milk can scald, burn and develop film/skin (more milk fat increases this). For this, stay with it, pay attention and keep the burner temperature under half power.
As your milk is warming (turn the burner on to just under half), break or cut small any solid chocolate that needs it, keeping in mind that smaller melts faster. For 4 cups of milk you’ll need ~ 1/4 cup chips (this is around 55 chips) /chopped chunks or two (2) 1 ounce/ baking squares or 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder/Nutella/chocolate syrup. If you opt to use brownie mix, you will want ~1/3 cup and you need to prepare it in a separate dish that you will mix 1/4 cup of the warm milk from the pan on the stove into. All measurements are flexible. You can adjust to taste.
Add the prepared chocolate and sweetener to the milk. You can also add cinnamon or other spices, but not yet, vanilla.
Alright, this is the hardest part. Mix until the chocolate is melted or dissolved with any sugar. Turn it off and remove it from heat. Add vanilla if desired. Grown-ups can consider additional mix ins.
You can choose to add the cream toward the end, if using, to avoid overheating.
If you want to add whipped cream or marshmallows, it is their time to shine.
Start with half of the milk in the cup you will drink from. Add all of the chocolate and sweetener (if necessary) and mix well with milk. Microwave for half of your normal cook time.
Mix well again. Taste and adjust if necessary. Add the rest of the milk you want to use.
Put it back in the microwave for about half of your preferred cook time, plus 10 seconds. Stir until you think it’s as melted and mixed as it can be.
Don’t forget your whipped cream or marshmallows to top, if you have them and if you want them. Marshmallow cream is also a good topper.