How to Make Virtuous Cocoa and Blissful Hot Chocolate

(Last Updated On: October 27, 2017)

I have always loved chocolate. One of its extraordinary qualities is that as a drink, it can be either a low calorie treat or a decadent dessert.

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Cocoa

Cocoa is easy to make, filling, and full of calcium and protein. Cocoa is much lower calorie than hot chocolate. If you aren’t bothered by the subtle flavor of almonds, using unsweetened almond milk is an easy way to bring down the calorie count of your cocoa. If you have trouble sleeping it’s an excellent way to end of the night. There is no need for packaged cocoa mixes. Cocoa powder, sugar and milk are all you need. The biggest decision is natural or Dutch process cocoa powder.

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Natural Cocoa Powder

Natural cocoa powder has a sharper taste. The flavor varies in the way of chocolate bars, by the producer. I find cocoa with a deep strong taste the most satisfying. Try different brands to find the flavor profile you like best. This type of cocoa powder is a good choice when adding strong flavors such as chili pepper or peppermint to the drink.

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Dutch Process Cocoa Powder

Dutch Process Cocoa Powder has a mellow smooth flavor. It is less common, but is often preferred by children. It pairs well with subtle flavorings such as vanilla.

Hot Chocolate

I find the intense rich taste of hot chocolate, as it is traditionally prepared in Europe incomparable. Melted dark chocolate mixed with milk and lightly sweetened is a decadent pleasure that always leaves me completely satiated. Don’t pass up the opportunity to try it at Café Angelina in Paris or Rivoire in Florence.

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Hot Chocolate in Chicago

Wherever I am, I try the hot chocolate if it is made in the European style. Though I’m often disappointed, I’ve found a few places that make phenomenal chocolate drinks. Fortunately one of them is here in Chicago. At chef Mindy Segal’s Hot Chocolate, she creates drinks that vary the flavors and balance of chocolates types. My favorites are the black & tan: 1/3 hot fudge, 2/3 medium hot chocolate and the half & half: half espresso and half dark hot chocolate. Try making these at home with the recipes below.

NYC Hot Chocolate

Another incredible spot for hot chocolate is the City Bakery in Manhattan. Both the plain and the flavored choices are delicious. Their drinks sustained me on many cold winter days.

Cocoa Recipe Inspiration

My cocoa recipe is inspired by a number of cocoa boxes and leaves room for improvisation. I find that a deep rich tasting cocoa creates a drink that doesn’t require much sweetening. I use no more than 1 part sugar to 2 parts cocoa and sometimes less. Also adding a touch of vanilla adds complexity to the taste. Although I often substitute maple syrup for sugar and almond milk for cow’s milk, hot chocolate drinks are often an exception. Although I make an almond milk variation, I prefer skim milk so I can enjoy the unsullied flavor of chocolate.

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Cocoa and Espresso

If I want something sweet in the afternoon adding a couple of shots of espresso to my cocoa is a favorite pick me up. Since mocha cappuccinos are often made with chocolate syrup I think of it as cocoa espresso. 

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Hot Chocolate at Home

My basic Hot Chocolate recipe is a family favorite and is derived from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. It uses equal proportions of bittersweet and milk chocolate. My personal favorite is the Dark Hot Chocolate.

Flavorings

Chocolate is the perfect canvas for added flavors. Some popular choices are cinnamon, chili powders, crushed peppermint, caramel and hot fudge. Flavored syrups are another way to add flavor and color. Coffee bars and stores that have a section devoted to Italian products usually have a selection of syrups. Although I like all of these, my favorite hot chocolate topping might be unsweetened whipped cream.

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Share

Please share your recipes for cocoa or hot chocolate with me. I’d love to try some new variations!

 

Cocoa

Serves 1

2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup nonfat milk

½ teaspoon vanilla

Mix cocoa powder sugar and vanilla to form a paste. Add a touch of milk if it is still powdery. Warm the milk until is simmers but does not boil. Slowly stir the milk into the cocoa mixture.

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Cocoa Espresso

Serves 1

Add two shots of espresso to the above recipe.

 

Hot Chocolate

Serves 2

1¼ cups whole milk

1 cup half and half

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

2 ounces milk chocolate chips

1½ teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon instant espresso powder

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Use a saucepan to heat the milk and the half and half until tiny bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate chips. When the chocolate is melted add the sugar, vanilla and espresso powder. Whisk until all the ingredients are completely combined. Reheat to serving temperature. Again be careful not to let the hot chocolate boil. Serve alone or with your favorite topping.

Medium Hot Chocolate

Serves 2

1¼ cups whole milk

1 cup half and half

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

2 ounces semi-sweer chocolate chips

1½ teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon instant espresso powder

Use a saucepan to heat the milk and the half and half until tiny bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate chips. When the chocolate is melted add the sugar, vanilla and espresso powder. Whisk until all the ingredients are completely combined. Reheat to serving temperature. Again be careful not to let the hot chocolate boil. Serve alone or with your favorite topping.

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Dark Hot Chocolate

Serves 2

1¼ cups whole milk

1 cup half and half

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

1½ teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon instant espresso powder

Use a saucepan to heat the milk and the half and half until tiny bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate chips. When the chocolate is melted add the sugar, vanilla and espresso powder. Whisk until all the ingredients are completely combined. Reheat to serving temperature. Again be careful not to let the hot chocolate boil. Serve alone or with your favorite topping.

 

 

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