Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Snuggle up to Hot Cocoa

What's the perfect way to cozy up on freezing cold winter days like these? A steaming mug of decadent hot chocolate, of course!

While it's easy to just grab a pack of instant cocoa from supermarkets and you're good to go, why not make it extra special by making it at home yourself? You add a touch of love to it by making it from scratch, plus, the extra time in the kitchen is sure to warm you up, too!

I recently found an interesting website chock full of baking and dessert recipes that can easily be done at home. In the Joy of Baking website, Stephanie Jaworski lets you try out her recipes for cakes, cookies, muffins, scones, pies, tarts, and so much more. Virtually every sweet treat is there, including this super rich hot chocolate recipe that you should definitely try!

What makes this site stand out from the others is the interesting bits of history about each recipe! Here are fun tidbits about the origins of hot cocoa:

"Drinking chocolate is steeped in history. Columbus is credited with being the first to discover chocolate. When he arrived in the New World (what we now think was either Mexico or Nicaraguan) in 1502 he found the Aztecs drinking a chocolate beverage made with cocoa beans from the tropical tree Theobroma which translates to "Food of the Gods". Although the Spaniards found the beverage too bitter tasting for their palates they were amazed to see the Aztec's emperor, Montezuma, consuming up to 50 cups a day. The Aztecs made the beverage by first roasting and then grinding the cocoa beans to a paste, and then adding the paste to water, along with chili peppers and vanilla. Columbus did take cocoa beans back to Spain but they were not well received. It wasn't until Hernando Cortez brought more of the cocoa beans back to Spain from his trip to the New World (sometime around 1520) that the Spaniards found a way to process the beans to make them more palatable. They did this by adding sugar and spices (vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, hazelnuts, almonds, orange flower water) to the chocolate paste. Once the paste was allowed to solidify it was added to water or milk. This drink immediately became popular with the Spaniards and eventually the beverage spread throughout Europe and eventually to North America."

Amazing, isn't it?

Now for the equally amazing recipe:

Hot Chocolate:
2 cups (480 ml) milk
3 ounces (90 grams) semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 ounce (30 grams) milk chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon granulated white sugar, or to taste (optional)

1. Place the milk, semisweet chocolate, milk chocolate, and sugar (if using) in a saucepan pver medium heat and whisk periodically until the mixture just reaches the boiling point.
2. Remove from heat and if more foam is desired, use a wire whisk or hand-held immersion blender to whip the hot chocolate.
3. Pour the hot chocolate into two cups and garnish with a dollop of whipped cream (recipe below) and a dusting of cocoa powder or grated chocolate if desired.

Whipped Cream:
1/2 cup (120 ml) cold heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated white sugar
grated chocolate or cocoa powder

1. In your mixing bowl, place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir and combine.
2. If you have time, cover and chill the bowl in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. When chilled, beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. The whipped cream will keep in the refrigerator for a day or two.

Makes two 8-ounce (240 ml) servings.

- To make hot or iced mocha, simply replace 1/2 cup (120 ml) milk with your favorite brewed coffee. Proceed with the recipe.
- If you want it iced, let the mixture cool and then pour over ice cubes. Garnish with whipped cream and grated chocolate.
- Leftovers can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Reheat.

For more delightful and easy recipes, visit the website here.

Image from the Joy of Baking website.