Hot chocolate made headlines recently. The mere mention of this hot beverage seems to strike up memories and spark an occasional craving. There’s nothing better after a day on the ski slopes than to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa. Staying overnight in a cabin or lodge, hot chocolate tends to be a favorite after dinner drink, and no doubt a soothing way to warm up alongside a fire.
Though I often interchange the term hot cocoa with hot chocolate, hot cocoa refers to the concoction made with Dutch-processed powder, while hot chocolate refers to the beverage made with a chocolate paste and in more modern times includes milk mixed in. Cocoa was discovered and put into use by the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations and it has been enjoyed ever since. As the Kakawa Chocolate House shares, the Olmecs, Toltecs, and later the Mayans & Aztecs ground together the cacao beans from the cacao (kah KOW) tree along with spices, chilies, and herbs and created a paste. The process of creating chocolate is a little more complex, and you can find more on the subject below, but with added water these elixirs became highly coveted. Thick, rich, and frothy, chocolate was thus first enjoyed as a drink. Lucky for us, creamy style drinking chocolates have become popular once again.
Every now and then I enjoy a demitasse size cup of drinking chocolate. I find that hot chocolate tends to be a little too sweet for my taste, but if I am going to enjoy a cup, I love it with spicy chipotle or cayenne added in. Making hot cocoa at home from scratch, instead of ripping open a packet of powder, is a good way to control the sweetness in the drink. It also ensures that I’m drinking actual chocolate instead of something that is chocolate flavored and loaded with additives. The same is true for whipped cream. Next time you’re at the market, bypass the can and get a carton of heavy whipping cream instead. If you haven’t had homemade whipped cream recently, it’s ridiculously easy to make and something to try all over again. Creamy, luscious and pampering, it’s a little something sweet to indulge in.
So why did hot chocolate make recent headlines? Chocolate in the news is nothing unusual, it has been throughout history. In an interesting update though, a report found that drinking hot chocolate “may taste more flavorful in an orange cup” so in an orange mug, it’s apparently yummier. I’m too biased to conduct the experiment myself though it did influence the purchase of this rather cute mug. If you find an orange cup, go ahead and invite someone over for two cups of hot cocoa, have them try both and see which one they prefer.
If you are by now craving a warm cup of cocoa and have plans to head to the store to buy some, I recommend reading the list of ingredients on the box or can and look for ones that have chocolate listed first. Often I buy Guittard or Ghirardelli Dutch-processed cocoa and whip it up myself, it’s a good way to ensure that it won’t be too sweet. Brands and chocolatiers such as Theo, Askinosie, TCHO or Jacques Torres as an example craft drinking chocolate mixes, and all that’s needed is your favorite milk such as soy or almond to be added in. Nothing like homemade, here are a few recipes to try:
Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Recipe -with a pinch of cayenne or try chipotle
Thick Hot Chocolate – from Food52
Copia Hot Chocolate – with orange zest from Guittard
Champurrado Atole de Chocolate Masa-Thickened Mexican Hot Chocolate
To make it decadent, top your cup of cocoa with homemade whipped cream. While mixing the cream, add in a hint of vanilla, try it with a sprinkle of orange zest or even fold in peppermint candy pieces, there a lot of creative ways to enjoy it, and it’s worth it.
How to Make Whipped Cream
2 tablespoons powdered or confectioners sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Directions: place a metal mixing bowl into the freezer until cold, for 10 to 15 minutes. Place the cream into the mixing bowl. Using a metal whisk or hand blender, beat or mix until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue to mix until stiff peaks form but don’t overbeat. Makes about 2 cups.
Now that you have a cup of hot chocolate to hold (or on your mind) snuggle up with a cozy blanket, curl up in your favorite comfortable chair or by a fire, and sit back for a few worthwhile reads dedicated to this drink:
The Art of Manliness The Surprisingly Manly History of Hot Cocoa
Jane Austen’s World Hot Chocolate, 18th-19th Century Style
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation A Cup of Hot Chocolate, S’good for What Ails Ya
NPR How Hot Chocolate Became More American Than Apple Pie
Understanding Chocolate: From Tree to Factory
David Lebovitz Living The Sweet Life in Paris Cocoa Powder FAQ: Dutch-process & natural cocoa powder
theKitchn Food News and more on whipped cream
Live Science Like Hot Chocolate? Drink it in an Orange Cup
Have a favorite hot cocoa recipe or story to share?