Archaeological findings in present-day Guatemala suggest Mayans were drinking some derivative of what we affectionately call “hot cocoa” some 1,500 years ago. Introduced to Europe by Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes, this warming New World drink was an instant hit among members of the Spanish aristocracy. It would still be a couple of centuries before hot chocolate made the transition from luxury item to accessible winter beverage, but cocoa fever had already started to settle in.
Today, hot chocolate is enjoyed by the masses in many different forms. Some of the more creative and adventurous homeowners and apartment dwellers even make their own hot cocoa from scratch. If you enjoy hot chocolate and are the type of person who loves to make things yourself, employ the following tips the next time you mix a batch of warm cocoa in your luxury apartment kitchen.
Use Solid, Dark Chocolate
There are a number of powdered hot chocolate mixes that will do the trick if you’ve got a craving and you don’t have the time, energy, or ingredients to cook up an authentic batch. But even gourmet powder mixes pale in comparison to the real thing. The best hot chocolate is made with your favorite brand of bittersweet or semisweet dark chocolate, whatever that may be. Use between two and three ounces of chocolate for every cup of milk, depending on how chocolaty you want the result to be.
Use Whole Milk in Hot Chocolate
For a more memorable batch of hot chocolate, use whole milk rather than reduced fat or fat-free. The creaminess of whole milk complements the mild sweetness of dark chocolate perfectly. If you are vegan or have dietary restrictions that otherwise limit your dairy intake, substitute almond or cashew milk.
Add Pinch of Salt
Have you ever had dark chocolate sprinkled with sea salt? It’s delicious! And so is rich hot chocolate with just a pinch of salt. Salt and dark chocolate react somehow to create a truly indescribable taste, and it gives any batch of homemade hot chocolate the perfect flavor profile.
Sprinkle with Cinnamon
Cinnamon is one of the healthiest spices you can eat. It helps regulate blood pressure, reduce harmful cholesterol, and stave off heart disease. But these are only added benefits. The real reason to add cinnamon to hot chocolate is to improve its taste, if you like cinnamon and complex flavors, that is. If you do not care for cinnamon or get bored with it and are looking to alter the flavor of your hot chocolate, other spices to add include cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, and chili powder.
Hot Chocolate and Churros
If you are looking to have a truly life-changing hot chocolate experience, honor Hernan Cortes by doing it the Spanish way. Home make churros and serve them with an extra thick batch of genuine hot chocolate. You can dip the churros in the chocolate while it’s too hot to drink, enjoying what’s left once it has reached a temperature that won’t burn your tongue.
Take one or more of these tips to heart next time you warm up a batch of hot chocolate, and enjoy the experience like never before. For more winter food preparation advice and seasonal recipe inspiration, browse through some of our other foodie posts.