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‘Tis the Season for Hot Cocoa

By Katie Barreira

As promised, this week is all about the season, and there’s nothing like a steaming cup of cocoa to make the impending winter feel cozy and snug instead of bah humbug. Here are a few of the best hot chocolate recipes, traditional and not so, that I’ve collected along the way. No matter your brew of choice, the homemade marshmallows are a must try and pair perfectly with every variety of hot chocolate.

The Old Fashioned
Serves 6-8

Recreate the best qualities of a classic, just add water cocoa mix, without the additives. This is the hot cocoa of childhood, best drunk by the mug-full after an afternoon of frosty frolicking.

1 cup powdered milk
2 tablespoons dry non-dairy creamer
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
pinch salt

1. In a large bowl, whisk to combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

2. To serve, pour hot water over ¼-1/3 cup of the powdered mixture in a mug.

Topper: Whip equal parts heavy cream and marshmallow fluff.

Sipping Chocolate
Serves 4

As their names suggest, hot cocoa and hot chocolate are two separate (but equal) beverages, and they are named accordingly. Cocoa is prepared with dried powder of the cocoa bean, while hot chocolate gets its richness from melted chocolate. The latter, sometimes referred to as drinking chocolate, makes a decadent and syrupy drink, best sipped in dainty portions.

2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 teaspoons sugar
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepot, over medium-high heat, bring the milk, cream, cocoa powder and sugar to a boil, whisking; remove from heat. Whisk in semi-sweet chocolate and vanilla until smooth. Serve in demitasse cups.

Topper: Whip equal parts heavy cream and mascarpone for a savory dollop that will put this dessert drink over the top

Hot Almond Milk Chocolate
Serves 2

Almond milk provides a nutty base for this nougat-inspired hot chocolate.

2 cups almond milk
1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch salt
1 ounce milk chocolate, finely chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepot, over medium heat, whisk milk, cocoa powder, sugar and salt until the sugar is dissolved and the milk is steaming. Add milk chocolate and whisk until melted; remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Topper: Fold chopped, toasted almonds into whipped cream.

Double Malt Hot Chocolate
Serves 4

A grown-ups only hot chocolate with a frothy head, like the stout that inspired it.

2 cups milk, divided
½ cup cream
½ cup chocolate stout
½ cup malted milk powder
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a small saucepot, over medium heat, whisk 1 ½ cups of the milk, cream, stout and malt powder until steaming. Whisk in bittersweet chocolate, remove from heat, and continue whisking until smooth.

Warm the remaining ½ cup milk in the microwave, then froth with a whisk or frother. Serve malted hot chocolate in glass mugs topped with foam.

Homemade Marshmallows

The first time I made these pillowy treats I was smitten. The genuine vanilla flavor and doughy mouth feel are almost overshadowed by the fact that they’re just so darn pretty. You’ll need a candy thermometer to make this recipe.

Three 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup, plus 2 teaspoons cold water, divided
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped from pod
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, soften the gelatin in 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons of the cold water for 25 minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, remaining 1/2 cup water, corn syrup and salt; cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to high and cook, undisturbed, until the syrup registers 240° on a candy thermometer, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, line a 9-x13-inch baking pan with plastic wrap and spray with cooking spray. Slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture with the mixer running on low speed. Gradually increase to high speed and beat until the marshmallow is pillowy and almost tripled in size, about 10 minutes. Beat in the vanilla seeds. Coat a spatula with cooking spray and spread the marshmallow evenly into the prepared pan. Lightly spray the surface with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight.

Cut the marshmallows into desired size squares and toss to coat with confectioners’ sugar.

Tip: Substitute 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract for the vanilla seeds, or for a different flavor, try 2 teaspoons peppermint extract or 1 tablespoon almond extract.

Tip: Instead of powdered sugar, coat with finely chopped toasted nuts, crushed chocolate graham crackers or colored sugar.

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