During the cold winter evenings it’s great to imagine cozying up next to a snowy window covered with a warm blanket, reading a book, and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. Although it is not easy to control the weather, and I will not get into book or blanket recommendations, I will try to help you with the last part by giving you a recipe for an amazing cup of hot chocolate.
One of the main features of a good hot chocolate for me is the creamy texture, and the easiest way to make this happen at home is to use actual chocolate. Cocoa powder, although convenient and faster, simply won’t give you the same result. Of course, the better the quality of the chocolate the better the result will be. And with milk as the main carrier, you will achieve a creamy and rich flavored cup of hot chocolate.
Of course, hot chocolate drinks come in many different flavors, but the procedure for preparing them is pretty much the same regardless of the flavor you chose. So here are the four simple steps that I follow in order to get the best out of a cup of hot chocolate:
1) Start by properly warming up the milk in a pot. For the chocolate to melt and become smooth the milk should be almost boiling. Patience is the key with this step, as you should use low heat to warm the milk to approximately 95°C. It is possible to speed up the process by increasing the heat but you have to be extra careful and make sure that you whisk constantly to prevent the milk from burning and sticking to the bottom of your pot.
2) Remove the pot from the heat and place the chocolate and any spices you want to use in the warm milk. Let the ingredients rest in the warm milk before mixing. This will allow the chocolate to start melting and it will produce a smoother hot chocolate, without small bits floating around.
3) Place the pot back on the low heat and whisk until smooth and all the ingredients have been fully incorporated. When the cold ingredients are added in the hot milk the temperature drops dramatically, so you need to warm it up again to help it mix up properly. Also, nobody wants a lukewarm cup of chocolate, so by placing it back on the heat you make sure that the drink is nice and warm.
4) Don’t overdo it with the toppings. It is tempting to cover the chocolate with a mountain of whipped cream, marshmallows, and cookies, but try to keep it simple. Chose one or two toppings that boost the flavor of the chocolate without covering it.
At this point, you should have great cup of hot chocolate. Based on these steps you can further improvise and create any flavor you feel like. Here is a list of my favorite flavors with links to their recipes if you need some inspiration.
Feel free to leave your own ideas, tips, and tricks for the perfect cup of hot chocolate in the comments.