I’m of two minds whether to actually admit the following but here goes. When I was a child, a lot of the food we ate came out of packages, boxes, tins etc. Hot Chocolate came from Swiss Maid packets. If we wanted to bake a cake- Betty Crocker was there to help. Macaroni and Cheese attack? Kraft had that covered in a box- With powdered cheese. Even my grandmothers resorted to packaged food in recipes. Grandma Jean used JELL-O pudding mix in her Rum Cake. And Grandma Mabie used tinned fruit in her Fruit Salad.
It wasn’t just us. Everyone ate like this. It wasn’t until I moved to the UK and was unable to find certain ‘American’ cooking ingredients that I started to question what was actually in these convenience products, with an eye to recreating them from scratch. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. But in this case, necessity was the mother of deconstruction. And my eyes were opened to just what we had been eating all this time. Now here is where this post could go one of two ways…I’ll save the Industrialisation of Food by Multinational Oil Companies and the Monsanto Own American Farmers rants for another time. Though if you are interested in this, I highly, highly, highly recommend reading Michael Pollan’s writings!
Instead, I want this post to be a celebration of the simplicity of Hot Chocolate De-Constructed.
Hot Chocolate- a story
Normally, I’m a coffee or tea drinker. I love both in equal measures. We introduced Minnie-Sue to milky tea at about 18 months and she is also a tea drinker. Though she is an inveterate tea-leaver too. There’s something about the IDEA of tea that is sometimes better than actually drinking it. In her world anyway. However, Minnie-Sue is a lover of hot-chocolate and I found myself making it on a regular basis.
Here in the Land of Cadbury, hot chocolate is readily available. You buy it in a can right? Easy peasy, mix with water (ick you very much, I always use milk), heat and serve. I did this for ages. Until my self-proclaimed ‘Crunchy’ friend Sonata made me wonder about the list of ingredients on the hot chocolate tin that I do not routinely store in my pantry: Acidity Regulator, Flavourings (??), Malto-dextrine, Thickener. Hmm. I understand that there needs to be stability in the food that supermarkets store on shelves because I am not a fan of food waste either.
Then I experienced the opposite of a Eureka Moment. I had a Duh Moment. The most basic Kitchen Equation:
Hot Chocolate = milk + cocoa + sugar + heat
Job done. WHY would I be paying to buy all these different varieties of Drinking Chocolate (with their malto-dextrine and thickeners) from the supermarket when I had everything I needed in my store cupboard all along. Double Duh!
So here, my friends is the result of my
learning unlearning. Sorry if I’m late to the party. Sorry if I’m teaching you to suck eggs. Maybe you will forgive me when you see the mind-blowing variations to traditional hot chocolate that I bring to you!
Just a note about the chocolate I’ve been using lately. We went to The Cake and Bake Show at London Excel back in October. I met the most wonderful small business based up in East Yorkshire. White Rabbit Chocolatiers is run by the loveliest of lovelies- they were so kind to Minnie-Sue and her aspiring baking needs. And their chocolate is gorgeous. So rich and creamy! It has formed the base of all my hot-chocolate this season! Highly recommended!
De-Constructed Hot Chocolate is a super easy treat. The basic recipe is only 3 ingredients but you can add or adjust to your heart's content!
- 250 ml milk
- 1-1 1/2 Tbsp Dark Chocolate Buttons/Chips- obviously you can go up or down with the percentage of your cocoa count but lower percentages of cocoa solids have more added sugar. I use White Rabbit Extra Fine 72% Dark Buttons.
- 1/2 tsp golden caster sugar (or other sweetener of your choice- honey anyone?)
- Pour your milk into a small saucepan and heat gently over a low flame
- Add your chocolate drops to the warming milk.
- Enjoy watching them melt into a swirling spiral of chocolate
- Gently stir the chocolate with a wire whisk
- When the milk and chocolate are combined, add your sugar and stir gently until dissolved
- Pour your drinkable confection into your favourite mug and enjoy 5 minutes peace, staring out the window.
De-Constructed Hot Chocolate is infinitely customisable. The basic recipe is only for about half a mug which I always find satisfying because the chocolate is so rich. But double, triple or quadruple it for a crowd. Here are some ideas to make this rich treat even dirtier!
Add more chocolate. If you are a super-chocoholic add more!
You can use pure cocoa powder instead of chocolate buttons/chips. I usually start with about a teaspoon and whisk it constantly into the milk so it doesn't go lumpy.
Add vanilla. My preferred vanilla is Nielsen-Massey because of its quality. You don't need much. Add a drop after you remove the hot chocolate from the heat for heaven in a cup.
Stir in a little freshly grated nutmeg. Or cinnamon. Or both.
Are you a little bit spicy? You can swap high-quality chilli-chocolate buttons/chips for the regular chocolate. Or, thinly slice chillies and add them to the hot chocolate as it's warming. Strain to serve for an extra kick in the pants!
Add a dash of peppermint extract after you've removed the hot chocolate from the heat. Or for a Christmassy touch, pop a candy cane stirrer into the mug and serve.
Never forgetting marshmallows and whipped cream of course. If you are a veggie, I can recommend a great vegetarian friendly marshmallow. Freedom Mallows are available at Holland and Barrett or other health food stores.