Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over 20 years. She has cooked on multiple television stations, including the Food Network.
It's Like a Hug in a Cup
It's been a long-standing rule at my house that the kids can have all the junk food they want, as long as it's homemade. This hot cocoa recipe is the result of that rule because as soon as I put that rule down, they immediately went to work perfecting it. So this is a joint effort developed over many years.
Some years back, we watched the Simpson's movie, including the scene where Flanders makes a ridiculous, over-the-top cup of hot chocolate for Bart—which was hilarious. We started off down that path but pulled the reality back when the 8-year-old wanted a blowtorch.
This is our favorite version, and it's also the one that's the most practical and easy to make. I wanted them to have treats on occasion, but not to take hours making it, involve too many crazy steps (did I mention the blowtorch?), or trash the entire kitchen in the process. I'm still working on that last bit.
A couple of notes about this: I often serve very young or very old people and, in both cases, temperature matters. You do want to bring the temperature up enough to dissolve the sugar, make it nice and toasty warm, and marry the flavors of the spices. But what seems reasonable to a regular adult may actually damage very young or very old palates. The marshmallows and whipped cream bring the temperature of the hot cocoa down a lot but be mindful.
About the cinnamon stick—it's mainly for fun and decoration. And every single kid ever will try to use it as a straw. It doesn't work well, but they try anyway. That's the fun part. But once—just once—I had a kid tilt the cup back with the cinnamon stick still in the cup, and it went right down her throat. So once they get tired of the straw that doesn't really work, have them toss it if they're young enough to think that they can drink the cinnamon stick.
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Ultimate Hot Chocolate Ingredients
- 6 cups whole milk, or half-and-half
- 1/4 cup cocoa, unsweetened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, grated
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, grated
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup miniature marshmallows
- 1 cup whipped cream
- grated chocolate, unsweetened
- 4–6 whole cinnamon sticks
Ultimate Hot Chocolate: Instructions
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the milk, cocoa, and sugar. Add the spices and continue whisking until cocoa is fully incorporated and there are no lumps. The lumps tend to dissipate in the heat, but sometimes you'll get one, so just keep an eye out. If you find one, squash it against the side of the pan with the back of a spoon.
- Once the hot chocolate has reached a bare simmer, remove it from the heat. You don't want to let it boil—it can get bitter. And if you're serving this to very little or very old folks, keep the temperature in mind.
- Off the heat, stir in the vanilla extract. Place a handful of marshmallows (however many make you happy!) in the bottom of a cup. Ladle hot chocolate over the top of the marshmallows.
- Top with whipped cream. With a microplane grater (you know, a box grater would work just fine) grate semi-sweet chocolate over the top of the whipped cream. Add a cinnamon stick to the whipped cream and serve.
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© 2017 Jan Charles