Does this look like something you might be interested in drinking? If so, read on! If not, go make yourself a cup of Swiss Miss.
1. Use solid chocolate, NOT cocoa powder.
This is the most important thing to do. It's how you end up with something creamy and beautiful instead of disappointing and gritty and chalky. It's why the hot chocolate in Europe tastes like love and happiness.
Because you want it to look like this:
Photo from this excellent step-by-step recipe at Baked Bree.
Instead of this:
Say no to clumps.
2. The chocolate should be dark chocolate.
Semisweet, bittersweet, or something in between (in terms of % cacao content) will all work. Dark chocolate makes a drink that's less sugary and more intensely chocolaty than if you use milk chocolate. And if you start dark, you can always adjust the balance by adding milk or sugar until it's just right.
3. Use about 2 oz. chocolate for every cup of milk.
For a full batch of hot chocolate, that means you'll use two of these 4-oz. baking bars (the standard size you find at the grocery store) for every 1 quart (4 cups) of milk.
Feel free to play around with the ratio if you want a drink that's more or less chocolaty.
4. Use whole milk.
Or low-fat if you're feeling virtuous, or half-and-half if it's a special occasion. Skim is sad; cream is overkill. You want something right in the sweet spot.
5. Use any sweetener you like, but not too much of it.
Real talk: White sugar is not interesting. Try brown sugar, honey, or maple syrupinstead. Maybe Sweet 'n Low, if that's how you roll. You don't need a lot, since this situation is pretty rich already — just a spoonful or two.
6. Heat up the milk and sugar first, then add the chocolate.
You'll melt the chocolate into the milk once it's hot. This way there's no chance of overheating or burning the chocolate by melting it over direct heat; it's the same idea as making a basic chocolate ganache (hot cream + chocolate).
You'll add the chocolate and any other ingredients when the milk starts to bubble.
Other ingredients = exciting add-ins. Like what, you ask? Read on!
7. You can use cornstarch to make the hot chocolate extra silky-smooth (optional).
This moves things in a slightly more pudding-esque direction. Set aside a little of the cold milk while the rest is heating (about ½ cup) and whisk in the cornstarch (2 to 3 tsp. for 1 quart of milk) until it's smooth.
Add this mixture to the pot full of hot milk after you add the chocolate and whisk, whisk, whisk to make it smooth.
8. Always add a pinch of salt.
Yes, really, do it. It truly wakes up the chocolate and makes the whole thing at least 37% more delicious, promise.
9. Don't be afraid to take it to the NEXT LEVEL.
If you're bored, add exciting spices.
Throw your favorite ground spice into the mix to add a little drama. Here are some ideas:
• chile powder
• cloves (not a lot, this stuff is hardcore)
• pimentón (smoked paprika) — have not tried this but WHAT IF it was amazing
If you're sleepy, add caffeine.
Dissolve 1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder along with the sugar and milk, or justreplace some of the milk with regular brewed coffee. This is actually delicious whether or not you need a pick-me-up; coffee has magical chocolate-flavor-enhancing properties.
If you want to be sleepy, add booze.
If you haven't thought about adding whiskey or rum or Kahlua or amaretto orpeppermint schnapps to your hot chocolate, maybe you should.
Pour a respectable glug into the mix to heat up just before you serve it. If you add it at the beginning, the alcohol might evaporate, which would be a *real shame*.
10. Last but NOT least: Never forget marshmallows.
They could be DIY 'mallows...
Recipe at Barefeet In The Kitchen.
Or giant 'mallows...
Or adorable rainbow mini 'mallows.
Whatever floats your cocoa, man.
Hot Chocolate for Awesome People
Recipe adapted from Southern Living via Baked Bree.
8 oz. (two 4-oz. bars) dark chocolate
4 cups whole milk
1 Tbsp. brown sugar (or other sweetener) + more if you want
2 tsp. cornstarch
booze of your choice
1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
ground spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, chile powder, etc.)
1. Chop chocolate into small pieces. The smaller they are, the faster and more smoothly they will melt.
2. Optional: If using cornstarch, whisk with ½ cup milk and set aside.
3. Heat milk, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally.
4. When milk begins to bubble around the edges, stir in chocolate and whisk until smooth.
5. Add cornstarch mixture and any other add-ins. Whisk until smooth and steaming hot.
5. Pour into cups and top with all the marshmallows you can cram in there.