Hot Cocoa. For my chocolate milk loving daughter, this is her favorite drink. The temperature could be 65 degrees at night in July and that would be cold enough to inspire her to declare that “this would be a perfect night for hot cocoa”. She needs very little in the way of excuses to ask for the rich, chocolatey drink.
There are two phrases that are used interchangeably: hot chocolate and hot cocoa. Technically, hot chocolate is literally chocolate that is melted and added to warmed milk. Hot cocoa is a warm milk drink made with cocoa powder and sugar. Both drinks are particularly delicious, but would you consider killing someone for access to such a drink? In Chiapas, Mexico, during the 1600s, the ladies of Chiapas drank hot chocolate during mass. According to Thomas Gage, the bishop (rumored to be Bishop Bernardino de Salazar y Frias) threatened to excommunicate the women if they continued to disrupt services with their chocolate drinking. The ladies found other places to worship, but shortly thereafter, the bishop perished, allegedly from poisoned hot chocolate, but not before uttering: “Beware the Chocolate of Chiapas!”
Hot chocolate is a very old drink. Brought over to Europe from Mexico by explorers, it was praised for its medicinal qualities. It was also a handy medium for poisoning, as show above. Hot chocolate was rumored to be used to attempt to poison everyone from Napoleon to Frederick the Great. Chocolate was heavily spiced and frequently considered medicinal, so it wouldn’t taste the same every time it was served. Very handy quality for a poisoning medium. What an ugly side to such a truly enjoyable drink!!!
Today, when most people make hot cocoa, they use a packet of cocoa mix. Many years ago, I used the ubiquitous packet. I don’t have the original list of ingredients, but here is the modern day list of ingredients for Swiss Miss (source):
Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Whey, Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Nonfat Milk, Calcium Carbonate, Less than 2% of: Salt, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Carrageenan Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Artificial Flavor.
I really wouldn’t have expected to see the milk so far down the list. I also wouldn’t expect to see Splenda in what is packaged as a “regular” packet of hot cocoa. Overall, another scary rendition of a processed food item.
Also, I’m not really sure I’m getting my money’s worth here. Sugar, whey, and corn syrup aren’t exactly high dollar items. The cocoa isn’t likely high quality cocoa, as it needs to be boosted by “artificial flavor”.
But, when you just throw cocoa into milk, you just get a clumpy, powdery mess. Many of those unpronounceable ingredients are designed to encourage a smoother incorporation of the dry ingredients into the liquid. If we are going to make our own hot cocoa, we need to overcome this particularly nettlesome issue.
When I mix cornstarch or flour into something liquid, I have to make a paste with water first. So, I used this particular logic and made a paste by adding water to my homemade cocoa mix. I then added the paste to warmed milk and miraculously had smooth, hot cocoa. No chemicals needed to keep the cocoa from lumping! As a bonus, the paste is amazing on its own. Sort of like a raw brownie.
6 ounces whole milk
3 tablespoons high quality unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of cinnamon (optional)
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of water (may need more)
Heat milk in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium low heat. Stir occasionally to avoid burning.
In a small bowl, combine the cocoa, sugar, cinnamon (if used), and salt. Slowly stir in water until the cocoa mixture is thoroughly moistened. There should be no dry cocoa remaining. Add more water, if needed. Whisk the cocoa mixture into the warming milk. Heat the milk to the desired drinking temperature. Pour into mug, top with a marshmallow, and enjoy!