Friday, February 22, 2013

Winter Comfort Cocoa

Day 15

Since it’s still cold outside, I thought that a hot cocoa recipe was a must, especially before the thawing of spring arrives. This recipe is one that I created based on several that I’ve tried and enjoyed. Ina Garten has an excellent Mexican hot chocolate recipe that I’ve tried, but I had the idea to substitute half of the milk with heavy cream. The cream gives it a thicker, richer flavor, and the added fat blends well with the melted chocolate and sugars. Of course, if you prefer to cut the cream with milk or half and half, it will definitely work too. I tend to enjoy richer, more decadent chocolate recipes, so I opted to serve my hot cocoa fully loaded. In our household, my husband and daughters prefer the lighter flavor while my stepson and I lean more toward the decadent. It really is just a personal preference. 

Copyright, Doug Kapustin, 2013
We’ve all tried the powdered hot chocolate, sometimes adding milk and marshmallows, and other times just water. And, with a little doctoring, it can be tasty, but there really is no substitute for real hot cocoa. I enjoy serving this drink at Christmas time with cinnamon shortbread or croissants with raspberry jam. Those flavor combinations are the most pleasing, I’d say. 

Few things are more pleasing than a warm drink and good conversation with those we love. As I write this, my sweet Basset Hound, Emmy, is resting on the chair beside me, and I’m acutely aware that I can enjoy her company as much as human companionship sometimes. Although she can’t enjoy hot cocoa with me, she certainly begs and waits for cookie or croissant crumbs to find their way to the floor. 

Hot cocoa brings comfort, especially on cold days. I’m an avid reader, so the idea of a warm chocolate drink, a blanket, and a good book is very appealing. While trying this recipe, I recommend reading Joanne Harris’ Chocolat and its sequel The Girl with No Shadow. The stories take place in a chocolaterie in the south of France, and the main character’s specialty is—you guessed it—Mayan hot cocoa. The books blend romance, magic, cooking, and even a bit of intrigue. There’s a movie based on the first book, too, so it’s a win-win. 

Give the drink (and the book!) a try for your next get-together or whenever you’re ready to enjoy a sweet treat and a relaxing afternoon. 

Winter Comfort Cocoa

3 cups milk
3 cups heavy cream
2 tbs. light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
10 oz. semi-sweet chocolate*, chopped 
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Optional: TINY pinch of cayenne pepper 

*Lindt chocolate is an excellent choice for hot cocoa (or any chocolate dish)

In a saucepan, heat milk, cream, and sugars. Heat thoroughly on low but do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Allow mixture to blend while off of heat, then return to low heat until mixture comes to a simmer again. 

Serve in generous mugs with whipped cream and chocolate chips if desired. 

Serves 6. 

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