Cooking Tips · Ingredients

The most delicious cup of hot chocolate!

I am not sure what the weather is like where you live but we have been doing a lot of shivering, lately. When it is cold outside, doesn’t a cup of delicious hot cocoa sound good? Or, do you prefer a cup of hot chocolate? Aren’t they the same thing? Also, is there a better option than the boxed mixes from your supermarket shelves? That is what the Cooking Tip is all about this week.

I don’t know about you but I tend to use the terms hot cocoa and hot chocolate interchangeably but those in the know will tell you hot cocoa is a sweet, light-bodied beverage made primarily from cocoa powder, sugar and milk. It also often contains flavoring like vanilla or even spices like cinnamon.

Hot chocolate is just that – hot, melted chocolate. Made of good quality chocolate that is very finely chopped, it is then melted when combined with hot water, milk, or even cream. It may contain a flavoring like vanilla, but usually doesn’t have added sugar beyond what is in the chocolate. This beverage will be rich and thick and less sweet than hot cocoa. Which is better is, of course, a matter of personal preference.

Have you ever made your own hot chocolate or hot cocoa from scratch? Since a carton of hot cocoa is so inexpensive, you may ask why make your own? Besides taste, here is another reason. Here is a list of ingredients on the label of a popular hot cocoa mix. Sugar, corn syrup, modified whey, cocoa processed with alkali, hydrogenated coconut oil, nonfat milk, calcium carbonate, less than 2% of salt, dipotassium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides, carrageenan, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, & artificial flavor. To be fair this same company also offers a line called Simply Cocoa and has a much shorter & cleaner ingredient list: sugar, cocoa (processed with alkali), nonfat milk, salt & natural flavor.

If you like a shorter ingredient list, try making your own hot chocolate/cocoa mix. As I have often mentioned in prior Cooking Tips, the fewer ingredients you have in a dish, the more important it is to have good quality ingredients. Therefore, seek out good chocolate.

At its simplest, hot chocolate is just chocolate that has been shaved or cut up very small and melted with hot milk or cream. You may choose to add flavorings such as cinnamon, vanilla or cayenne. If you want a recipe, there are plenty available. As you look at these, you will see some of the best have a mixture of cocoa powder and good quality bittersweet chocolate.

Here is one from Epicurious that I have tried and can attest that is very good. Here is another one from The Kitchn. I have not tried this one but it looks very yummy.

If you want to try something a bit more involved but which sounds interesting, check out this recipe from Serious Eats. It takes its sugar to another level by toasting it first. It also contains more ingredients, including both white and dark chocolate, cocoa, expresso powder and malted milk powder. I haven’t had the time to try this one, yet. If any of you do, please let me know what you think.

I’m hoping that the type of weather that makes you want to drink hot chocolate (or hot cocoa) will soon be behind us, but until then, enjoy a delicious cup!