A House Divided
The Boy and I are lucky enough to agree about all the important things in life. We differ only on the small matters. Small matters such as how hot chocolate ought to be prepared. He feels it should be so dark as to be nearly bitter and so thick as to be flirting with the title of pudding. I feel it should be delicately sweet and deliciously creamy. He is, clearly, terribly misguided. But I, being the clever and accommodating (and apparently terribly modest) soul that I am, have devised a perfect solution.
It’s such a perfect solution to a variety of hot chocolate problems that I feel the need to share it with you. For you see, in addition to solving the difficulty of favoring different strengths of hot chocolate, it also solves the vexing issue of effort versus laziness. Traditionally you can either have the slow but delicious version of cocoa (the kind that takes 2 trips to the pantry and 15 minutes of standing at the stove stirring a pot of milk so it doesn’t boil over and still usually results in a scorched pan) or the fast version of cocoa (the kind that results from dumping some sort of suspect powder into a glass of hot liquid and hoping most of the clumps of powder get dissolved). But no longer must you suffer with this quandary. Now you can make one batch of hot chocolate essence and then use it to quickly satisfy all your cocoa needs (at least until you run out and need to make more). Behold, the solution.
1) Gather your materials. I’m using 2 cups of white sugar and 2 cups of cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder, and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon (plus some half and half and vanilla, not shown here). The 1 to 1 ratio of cocoa to sugar comes out not-too-sweet, which is good for those who like it dark. If you and everyone you drink cocoa with like it sweeter, you can try closer to 1 part cocoa, 1.5 parts sugar. If you’re in a mixed household like ours, the sweet tooth can just add more sugar in the glass if needed. You can also swap in brown sugar for some or all of the white sugar. The chipotle powder is optional, but I find it to be delicious (and not at all spicy).
2) Dump all that in a pan with about a third of a cup of water. Stir it up. It will look like a grainy, nasty, unappetizing mess. You will think you’ve done something horribly wrong. I’m only showing you this so you know it’s normal at this point. Don’t worry, you haven’t made a mistake.
3) Add in about a third of a cup of half and half (or cream if you’ve got it sitting around). Turn the heat on medium, and start stirring. You’re going to be stirring for a good five minutes to get everything to come together. You want it to turn nice and smooth. Let it get hot and just start to bubble (keep stirring), but don’t let it boil hard. Stir in a teaspoon of vanilla just as you turn off the heat. It should be about the consistency of pudding. Be sure you’re scraping the sides and bottom of the pot to get everything incorporated and keep it from scorching.
4) Turn off the heat, let it cool enough to handle safely, and pour it into a jar. This makes enough to fill a pint jar with enough left over to make a glass or two now (such a hardship). Store it in the fridge. It will get very very solid (almost like butter) when it gets cold. It keeps for quite a while (I’ve never had a jar last more than a week or two though…good things do not linger around these parts).
5) When it’s time to have a cup of hot chocolate, heat up a glass of milk (I just cheat and do it in the microwave), scoop up a nice big spoonful of your magical concoction, and stir it into the hot milk until it dissolves. You can adjust the ratio of milk to chocolate to suit your taste. We’ve found we both like about a tablespoon of chocolate paste, but I like it in a big cup of milk and The Boy likes it in a tiny one. You can taste and see if you want it sweeter, and if so add extra sugar.
If you want to experiment a bit, it’s easy to change the flavor profile by swapping out different spices (or using coffee instead of water in step two). And if you’re not feeling the hot chocolate urge, I have it on good authority that this makes an awfully fine topping for ice cream or cookies (heat it up, drizzle it on). If you’re feeling even more ambitious and happened to have a plate of cupcakes sitting around, you could dip them in the pot in step three and let them cool for a nice easy frosting. Write out some instructions on a little card (do be sure to mention it should live in the fridge), tie it on the jar with a ribbon, and foist it off on anyone you feel might need more chocolate in their lives.