Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hot Chocky

I love hot chocolate. It's one of my favorite things in all the land, but finding a good hot chocolate mix is a nightmare. I've tried Swiss Miss, Cadbury, Ovaltine, and who knows how many other brands. In Eugene, my preferred choice was Euphoria, which is fantastic. Dump 2 tablespoons in hot milk, stir, and enjoy rich and tasty hot chocolate in under 5 minutes. Added bonus: Euphoria is a local Eugene chocolate company, and I like supporting local businesses.

Sadly, the only way to get Euphoria in the wilds of Yorkshire is via a suitcase (which I've done) or via USPS/Royal Mail and my folks (which will happen shortly). So after searching around here, The Boy and I discovered that we like Whittard of Chelsea's, but they're pretty expensive, and not sold anywhere close or convenient other than the Internet, which means shipping charges to drive the cost up further. The flat-rate international shipping box from USPS is expensive, but can have other things crammed in as well, making it a more economical option than Whittard's.

So while I wait for my care package of random crap from the States, I did what I always do, which is turn to cookbooks (or the Internet) to find an alternative. Betty Crocker, despite her other flaws (like eggs must be fried til the yolk is hard), has a good recipe. Which I proceeded to ignore/modify. The original recipe and it's "lighter" version are as follows:

Hot Chocolate (serves 6)

3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate (or 1/3 cup baking cocoa)
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
Dash of salt
4 1/2 cups milk

Heat chocolate and water in saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. (If using cocoa, mix cocoa, sugar, and salt in saucepan, stir in water. Then proceed as follows.)

Stir in sugar and salt. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in milk. Heat just until hot (do not boil because skin will form on top).

Beat with hand beater until foamy, or stir until smooth. Serve immediately.

I automatically halve the recipe because while I love hot chocolate, I also like living, and that much would probably kill me if I drank it on a nightly basis. It would also break the bank.

Beyond halving it, I also use a mix of baking chocolate and cocoa. And by a mix, I mean I use about 2 tablespoons of cocoa and an undetermined amount of baking chocolate. I don't weigh it out, I just add a couple of squares. If you use Baker's brand (not available in the UK that I've found), one square should be enough. Otherwise I follow the recipe above, but usually add either vanillin powder or vanilla extract. Sometimes I add cinnamon or nutmeg, and occasionally I'll replace the baking chocolate with Ibarra (also not available in the UK that I've seen) and cut the sugar down. Also, I whisk the hot chocolate; the neighbors don't need to hear the mixer at 10:30 at night.

I added a bit of instant coffee powder the other night, which I will not repeat, I've added Kahlua and Drambuie (not at the same time), and last night, I added peanut butter chips (we don't have smooth peanut butter in the house, which would have been my preference, but I didn't feel like fishing bits of nut out). The Boy was not impressed by the peanut butter flavor, but I really enjoyed it. It tasted a bit like melted Reese's Peanut Butter cups (they were Reese's peanut butter chips, also imported from the US), but not quite as heavy on the peanut butter flavor. Still pretty heavily flavored, but tasty tasty.

Regardless of how you choose to flavor it or not, making hot chocolate from scratch basically means making a ganache, then adding milk and heating it, or adding it to hot milk (which is what Dad does; his recipe involves folding a ganache into whipped cream, then adding all that into milk. Tasty, but more work than I want to put out. Also, his doesn't have the shelf life mine does, since he added cream). I'd say that I'll do more on ganaches later, but given that lately, posts here are 9 months apart, I wouldn't count on that.

*Meaning I'm still stuck with a jar of instant coffee, which we bought because of some vague notion of serving it to guests. Except we never have guests, and I would never serve it to someone I like. We did give some to a painter one time. He did a bad job, though I don't know if that was because of or in spite of the coffee.