Hot Chocolate #1 & My Search For The Ultimate

The Ultimate Hot Cocoa | Brittany's PantryThe ultimate hot chocolate.  It is true that I love tea, coffee, and a really fantastic apple cider.  But if I had to limit myself to one hot drink for the remainder of my days, it would be hot chocolate.  No surprise that a mocha is my favorite caffeinated drink!  I have always loved hot chocolate.  Maybe its the creaminess.  Hmmmm… I don’t really know, but I never get sick of drinking it.  And while I am perfectly happy with the individual packets that come out of the box, a certain event changed my life forever.

About 5 years ago, my husband and I were driving from San Diego up the coast of California for a wedding.  We were with several friends that we hadn’t seen since the previous year when my husband got out of the Navy and we were a little wired.  We stopped for brunch at this fantastic little french bakery and cafe.  I have no idea what the name of it was (I am trying to research and figure it out) but it was split into two rooms.  One side, the smaller of the two, was the cafe.  It was lots of wood and random tables and chairs, but quaint and comfy.  The other side was sorta long skinny with a table that ran down the length of the room.  All pastries!  Cakes, petit fours, breads, tarts, croissants, chocolate, puffs…anything you could imagine.  Literally, hundreds of baked goods and confections.  I am a sucker for a good bakery.  Ah.  Who am I kidding.  I love the cruddy ones too.  But this was incredible.  The staff all spoke french and only our server and the woman behind the register at the bakery seemed to speak broken English.

But lets get back to the food.
And ooooohhh my goodness.  The food…(drool, drool)

I ordered the Eggs Benedict and a Hot Chocolate.  Little did I know these two things would forever change the standards by which I rate all other eggs benedicts and hot chocolates.  The food I will cover in a different blog, as I haven’t the time and space to give it the proper praises.  But the hot chocolate.  *sigh*  The chocolate was shaved from a block and hot milk was poured over top and stirred.  I watched them whip the cream and generously cover the top of my mug with it, then shave more chocolate on top.  When it arrived, I could have shared with everyone at the table and still had leftovers.  It was HUGE!  The milk was fresh-I swear they must have had a cow out back-and rich (no skim here people!) and the chocolate wasn’t too sweet, too bitter or too thick.  Up till then, and since, I have not tasted anything even close to that.

So am I on the search for the ultimate hot chocolate?  Yes and no.  I mean, I really already found the best one.  And while I would appreciate having unlimited access to my own french bakery (why are they so rare in the middle of Illinois?) that is not my reality.  My reality is teddy grahams, cheerios, carrot sticks and sippy cups.  I have no problem with cheap and easy.  Hot chocolate that its…

So here it is.  My newly created recipe for hot chocolate.  I have been working on several different methods of making an at home, decadent, creamy, hot chocolate that is worthy.  Not too complicated, not too labor intensive, and it has to be enough for our family of four.  Currently, this is it.  Rich flavor without much fuss and perfect for the season.  I was out of whole milk on the day I experimented with this, so it isn’t in the recipe.  That is what I would usually use to make a good hot chocolate but let the record show, I normally drink 1%.  Use whatever combination tastes good to you.  If you used only skim milk, it wouldn’t be as rich, but it would be quite healthy.  Especially since this recipe uses cocoa powder; rich in antioxidants and flavor but without all the fat, sugar, and stabilizers in some chocolate.  So indulge all you want!  And support your local bakery.  You never know when you might miss it.The Ultimate Hot Cocoa | Brittany's Pantry Empty cup, waiting for the goodness.The Ultimate Hot Cocoa | Brittany's Pantry Hot Chocolate #1

In a medium saucepan stir together:
1/2 c sugar
1/3 c cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1/3 c hot water
Whisk constantly over medium heat until it comes to a boil.  Keep stirring and boil one minute.
Add: 4 c of milk (I used 3 c of 1% and 1 c of cream or all whole milk).

Heat gently until it is hot and at serving temperature.  At this point you can add whatever you like to flavor it.  1/2 tsp of peppermint extract, vanilla, ground cinnamon, instant coffee, maple extract, rum extract, orange liqueur.  Pour into 4 mugs and serve.  Top with marshmallows or whipped cream, if desired.