One of my favourite things about the colder weather is getting to wrap my hands around a steaming cup of hot chocolate. It’s not something that I drink very often, but when I do, it has to be perfect. I have very specific requirements to what I like and don’t like. I love mine thick and creamy, not too hot that I can’t drink it, but not too cold that I need to gulp it down straight away. It must be made with milk and cannot be heated in the microwave (sacrilege!!). One must only make hot chocolate on the stove!! Whenever I see someone mix powdered chocolate with hot water and try to pass it off as chocolat chaud, I die a little inside. This is not hot chocolate people, this is chocolate flavoured water!!! For me, a good hot chocolate should be tailored to the individual who is drinking it. Some of my best memories include hot chocolate, like drinking it with my Dad before he put us to bed and curled up watching movies with my mum and sister on Saturday nights as a child. My little brothers love it when I visit because they get to have my ‘special’ hot chocolate for supper. Earlier this year, I introduced my special hot chocolate to a group of friends in Paris and it went down a treat. Tonight I cooked up more delightful memories with this delicious beverage.
It’s no secret that I make damn good hot chocolate. Without giving away my super special secret ingredient, I’m going to share my Top Ten Tips on how to make your perfect version of this steaming cup of heaven.
Tip #1 Always use a stove. Never use the microwave. Never ever. This is wrong on so many levels. Firstly, you will never get the milk to the right temperature. Secondly, you won’t be able to melt the chocolate well enough. And moreover, you can’t make it with love if you just throw it into a box and press start. Hot chocolate has to be made with love. End of!
Tip #2 Always use milk as a basis for hot chocolate. Almond milk is my preference, but regular milk will do too. And if you have it, always add in cream. Tonight I used both! Hot chocolate is supposed to be rich and decadent. Nobody likes watery hot chocolate, and if they say they do, they are not true chocolate lovers to begin with.
Tip #3 Always use real chocolate. I used to think this went without saying, but apparently not. If you offer me hot chocolate and then hand me a watery powdery drink, I will not be impressed. I will drink it, but I will be judging you silently with every. single. sip. It doesn’t have to be amazing chocolate (you can always mask the taste of bad quality chocolate – see Tip #4!), but it still has to be real! Side note – caramel chocolate is a very good choice, but don’t forget to add a little salt!
Tip #4 Get creative with your base! I always add vanilla pod and cinnamon to the milk and allow the flavours to mix on a medium heat before adding any chocolate. Sometimes I like to add sprigs of mint – mmmmm! This makes your hot chocolate taste a lot more luxurious that you think. Bonus tip – it makes your kitchen smell amazing!!
Tip #5 Be patient! It takes time to make hot chocolate. Don’t try to turn up the heat and rush the process. You will only end up burning the bottom of your pot and boiling the milk. Boiled milk is never a good thing!!
Tip #6 Always use a whisk. Because whisks are fun!!
Tip #7 Always add marshmallows (and if you’re vegetarian like me, you can buy gelatin free ones!). It is important to add them before any other toppings. Always add cream or extra frothy milk afterwards. This way they melt slightly with the heat and turn into gooey sugary deliciousness.
Tip #8 Decoration is so important. Drinking hot chocolate should be a pleasurable experience. One should use all of their senses, including their eyes. There are so many possibilities. Personally, I like to go overboard with whipped cream (it’s a rare treat so it’s ok!) and then add more chocolate! I got creative tonight and added rolos, M&Ms and sprinkles!
Tip #9 Don’t worry about measurements. Just go for it. You can always bottle up any extra and put it into the fridge for another day. Hot chocolate mix should keep at least 5 days… you’ll know if it’s gone off, believe me!
Tip #10 Share with friends! Hot chocolate is not an activity one simply does on their own. Oh no! Hot chocolate is a social experience. Get friends around and start experimenting. If you think the evening is getting a bit boring, add in some Baileys or Frangelico. Hey presto, instant partaaaay! Bonus Tip – Never ever EVER mention the calories. Yes you are probably drinking two days worth of energy right now and you’ll probably be on a sugar high for the rest of the week but it’s totally worth it!
As you can tell, I take my hot chocolate very seriously! So I have one very serious question for you.
Hot chocolate – how do you make yours?!