There’s a childlike excitement that comes from shoveling snow off the sidewalk and earning yourself a frothy mug of hot cocoa. Our childish chocolate hankerings almost never go away, and we find ourselves seeking out sophistication beyond plain instant cocoa packets. If you’re ready to step over to the gourmet side of sipping chocolate, be sure to try some of these recipe tips. If you have your own favorite upgrades for a cup of hot cocoa, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
Brewing a Basic Hot Cocoa
Before we get gourmet, it’s important to get the basic hot cocoa formula down. The simplest recipe for a cup of cocoa calls for a tablespoon of cocoa powder and a tablespoon of sugar dissolved in a cup of warm milk. Our classic hot cocoa mix recipe is made with two kinds of premium cocoa powder, a spoonful of cane sugar, a pinch of salt, and a kiss of vanilla.
To make a cup of Spice House hot cocoa; mix 2 tablespoons of our hot cocoa mix with 1/4 cup hot water and stir well to make a smooth paste. Add 3/4 cup of whole milk, heat and enjoy. From this standard recipe you can switch things up with our specialty cocoa mixes such as hazelnut hot cocoa mix, salted caramel hot cocoa mix, or cocoa masala hot cocoa mix.
Don’t Forget Vanilla
Vanilla has been an essential cocoa ingredient since the days of gilded goblets in Montezuma’s court. Aztec Emperor Montezuma II was the original chocoholic, and was said to drink up to 50 goblets of xocolatl a day! Xocolatl (SHO-CO-LA-TIL) is one of the earliest chocolate beverages, made from toasted cacao beans, vanilla beans, cornmeal, chile peppers, and sometimes honey. It was served cold and was described by Spanish conquerors as bitter in flavor, but complex and pleasant in its aroma.
Vanilla is the one of the best flavor pairings for chocolate, accentuating cocoa’s earthy, sweet flavors and adding an aromatic lift that completes the chocolatey flavor profile. You can incorporate vanilla into your hot cocoa routine by using vanilla extracts, whole vanilla beans, or vanilla bean paste in your recipes. If you’re really feeling extra, finish your mug of cocoa with a dusting of our vanilla bean sugar.
Add More Chocolate
There’s an argument in the chocolate world when it comes to naming beverages. Purists say that a true hot cocoa calls for strictly cocoa powder and a hot chocolate is made with melted chocolate bars. Whatever you want to call it, if you melt some chopped pieces of a chocolate bar into a pot of hot cocoa, it will be delicious. You can experiment with different brands and styles of chocolate, too. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and even Baker's chocolate can all be melted into a cup of cocoa. Don’t forget about garnishing, either! Take a microplane grater to your chocolate bar to make the perfect chocolate shavings for your hot cocoa.
Make it the Bomb
Everyone on the internet is going crazy over hot cocoa bombs, and so are we! These cute confections are a great idea for making homemade gifts this year. Loading your chocolate bombs with our premium hot cocoa mix is sure to put yours over the top. We like putting real cocoa nibs in our hot cocoa bombs. The little pieces of roasted cacao beans add a nice crunch between sips.
Switch Up Your Sweetener
Most recipes will have you using the standard white cane sugar, and that’s okay! However, we aren’t looking to make an ‘okay’ hot cocoa here. Cane sugar just kind of adds sweetness, when you could choose another sweetener that will add more flavor, too. To double the richness, try using brown sugar for a bit of a deep caramel flavor. You can also try some agave or honey. For a Northwoods spin, add a few tablespoons of our maple sugar to your recipe.
Milk is Better Than Water
The best hot cocoa recipes call for milk. Recipes that use water instead taste thin and lack richness. Whole milk is preferable, and a splash of heavy cream is even better. Get extra richness by using some sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk. You can go for something richer like goat or sheep's milk. Vegan? No problem! Coconut, oat, soy, and almond milks can all be used for a delicious and indulgent vegan cocoa. The point is, if you use plain water as the base, you will end up with a boring end result.
Make it a Mocha, Sort of...
A touch of instant coffee mix, espresso powder, or coffee extract makes the cocoa taste even more chocolatey. We’re not saying you need to add a lot of coffee to the drink. This is one of those instances where if you can taste the coffee, you have added too much. You want enough of a coffee flavor in the recipe to add a roasted background flavor that brings out extra richness in the chocolate and aromatics in the vanilla.
Make Your Own Marshmallows
Okay, we know this is a bit extra, but we are talking about the ultimate cup of hot cocoa here! You, too, will melt when there’s a perfectly gooey layer of marshmallow goodness floating atop your cocoa. You can even flavor your marshmallows to enhance the cocoa, creating different layers of flavor in the beverage. Peppermint extract, hazelnut extract, and Tahitian vanilla extract are just a few of our favorite marshmallow flavorings. Follow the recipe below and substitute your favorite flavorings to make it your own.
Whip it Into Shape
A whisk, a bowl, heavy whipping cream, and powdered sugar is all you need to dramatically improve your whipped cream situation. This presents another opportunity for layering the flavors of your cocoa. You could make it chocolate whipped cream with a teaspoon of cocoa powder for double chocolate goodness, or explore our extracts for more inspiration. For a festive spin, we enjoyed this whipped cream recipe that’s infused with our mulling spices—a mix of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cardamom, and mace.
Create Your Own Caramel Sauce
Once you’ve whipped your own cream, it’s time to drizzle some caramel. The amber color of caramel makes an attractive garnish, and its toasted sugar flavor is a natural pairing with chocolate. Try our salted caramel hot cocoa mix if you need more proof. Homemade caramel sauce can be made days before serving. You can keep a squeeze bottle of caramel in your fridge for whenever you’re ready to make cocoa. We’re a big fan of this vanilla bean caramel sauce, but also confess our love for tequila caramel sauce as well.
Article by Geoff Marshall, Staff Writer