How to Make Homemade Hot Chocolate and Cocoa

(Last Updated On: January 29, 2018)
Bittersweet Chocolate for Hot Chocolate
Bittersweet Chocolate

How to Make Homemade Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa

What’s the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate? Seemingly similar, the differences are in fact significant. Although both are satisfying hot drinks; cocoa is a low calorie treat that can be enjoyed any time. Hot chocolate is made from melted chocolate, It ‘s richer consistency elevates it to a dessert. Nevertheless it’s easy to make homemade hot chocolate and hot cocoa.

Why Cocoa When I Can Make Homemade Hot Chocolate

Hot cocoa is filling, easy to make, and contains both calcium and protein. If you have trouble sleeping it’s an excellent way to end of the evening. Substitute almond milk to bring the calorie count in this hot cocoa recipe even lower. 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.

Cocoa Powder
Cocoa

Natural Cocoa Powder

Natural cocoa powder has a stronger taste. Similar to chocolate bars, the flavor of the cocoa depends on the producer. I find cocoa with a deep strong flavor the most satisfying. Try different brands to find the flavor profile you like best. Natural cocoa powder is a good choice when adding bold accompaniments such as chili pepper or peppermint to the drink.

Dutch Process Cocoa Powder

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

Real Vanilla
Vanilla

Why Make Homemade Hot Chocolate

I make homemade hot chocolate because I find the rich taste incomparable. Melted dark chocolate is definitely my idea of a decadent pleasure. Truly a dessert compared to the watery drinks made from packaged mixes. Don’t pass up the opportunity to try it at Café Angelina in Paris or Rivoire in Florence.

Warmed Milk
Milk

Homemade Hot Chocolate Chicago

Wherever I am, I try find places that make homemade hot chocolate 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. 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. With the help of Ina Garten I have tried to recreate her recipes.

Homemade Hot Chocolate NYC

Another incredible spot where they make homemade 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.

Measuring Spoon of Sugar
Sugar

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 my exception. I use skim milk so I can enjoy the unsullied flavor of the chocolate.

Espresso Coffee
Espresso

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 call my drink a cocoa espresso. 

Instant Espresso
Instant Espresso Powder

Homemade Hot Chocolate

My goto hot chocolate recipe is from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. It uses equal proportions of bittersweet and milk chocolate. My recipes for medium and dark hot chocolate are variations of her recipe with inspiration from Mindy Segal.

How to Make Homemade Hot Chocolate and Cocoa
Peppermint Candy

Flavorings

Chocolate is the perfect canvas for added flavors, some of my favorite additions are crushed peppermint, caramel, peanut butter or hot fudge. I also like Mexican hot chocolate made with cinnamon and a hint of chili powder. Flavored syrups are another way to add flavor and color, purchase them at coffee bars and gourmet stores.

Winter Recipe Ideas

If you want some other ideas for winter comfort food, try my recipes for salmon with mushrooms or oatmeal with nut butter. If you have time for winter travel, consider Quebec. Read about all the fun things to do in my post, Winter in Quebec.

Recipes

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.

 

Cocoa Espresso

Serves 1

Add two shots of espresso to the above recipe.

 

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.

 

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.

Black and Tan

Hot fudge

Medium hot chocolate

Whipped cream

Fill a 1/3 of a mug with hot fudge. Top with medium hot chocolate. Serve with whipped cream.

 

Half and Half

Espresso

Dark hot chocolate

Whipped cream

Fill a mug with two shots of espresso. Top with dark hot chocolate

 

 

 

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