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Hot Chocolate: A Drink For All Seasons

Patch columnist Amy Baker traces the roots of hot cocoa, discovering along the way a perfect mix for both hot and frozen chocolate.

Hot chocolate truly is the ultimate summer drink. 

No... that’s not a typo.  Historically, hot chocolate’s beginnings can be traced back to the  ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations of balmy Mexico.  

Food historians believed the Mayans drank the beverage both hot and cold, without sugar but with the addition of chile and spices.  Xocolatl, as it was called, was considered an excellent medicinal drink, especially for stomach ailments.

Explorers discovered the drink and brought it back to Europe where it evolved into the sugary, rich libation we know and love today... one served mostly during the winter months.

In France, chocolat chaud is much thicker than the beverage we know as "hot chocolate" in the U.S.  It is prepared by melting bittersweet chocolate into warm milk or cream, followed by a quick spin in the blender for a frothy consistency.

Spain serves an almost pudding-like version, with fried churros alongside for dipping. Hot chocolate continues to find popularity in Mexico, often with the addition of cinnamon or spicy chile.

Hot chocolate differs from hot cocoa in the ingredients: melted chocolate vs. cocoa powder.

This time of year, hot chocolate becomes a daily pursuit for my children. They want a portable mug of the rich, creamy drink to sip as I drive them to school; and it’s their beverage of choice after hitting the ski slopes on the weekends.

Imagine their delight this past week when I recruited them as taste judges for my test kitchen to find our preferred hot chocolate recipe. I tested both cocoa and chocolate recipes, expecting to find that a French recipe with Valrhona chocolate would prove to be our favorite.

The blue-ribbon winner for our family was my adaptation of a recipe from Chef Joe Calderone of Serendipity 3 in New York City, which is famous for it’s popular menu item—Frrrrozen Hot Chocolate.  

We found this hot cocoa—which includes a blend of several cocoa powders—delicious served either hot or frozen, especially with the addition of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. 

The recipe is a snap to prepare, and I’ve adapted the recipe in order to make a large batch to keep on hand throughout the winter... or summer.

Now hot chocolate truly is the ultimate drink no matter what time of year.

 

Perfect Cocoa Mix

adapted from Joe Calderone

makes approximately 24 cups of cocoa

Ingredients:

2 cups of evaporated instant dry milk

2 cups of granulated sugar

3/4 cup Ghiradelli cocoa powder

6 tablespoons Hershey’s cocoa powder

6 tablespoons dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container.

Frozen Hot Chocolate

adapted from Joe Calderone

serves 2-4

Ingredients

1 cup Perfect Cocoa Mix

3 cups ice

1 cup milk

Blend all the ingredients together in an electric blender until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Pour equally into 4 short glasses or 2 tall glasses.  Serve with whipped cream and chocolate shavings if desired.

Hot Cocoa

serves 2

Ingredients:

2 cups milk, or a combination of both milk and water

1/2 cup Perfect Cocoa Mix

Heat the milk in a saucepan over high heat until it starts to foam and simmer.  Lower the flame to low and whisk in the cocoa mix. Whisk until well blended and frothy, about 20-30 seconds.  Pour equally into two mugs, and serve with marshmallows or whipped cream.

Marie January 19, 2012 at 02:40 PM
I got excited to see the article's title start with "Hot Chocolate" and as a Mexican to see if you give us credit (you do- thank you!). But, your recipes are all for Hot COCOA. I suggest if one wants to try 'Mexican Hot Chocolate' to purchase the chocolate bars/powder already containing the spice mix/almonds from a local store. A popular brand is called "Abuelita" (Grandmother) or Ibarra. One can find this in a local 'latino' section/shop. In Mount kisco shop at "La Marqueta" at 222 E. Main Street. In Mexico, it is a favorite and consumed with french bread (dunked, of course). Enjoy!
Lanning Taliaferro January 19, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Marie, I didn't realize you could improve on hot chocolate, but between the spices and the dunking, I'm going for this. Thanks for the tips on where to find it around here.
Philander Oakes January 19, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Thanks to Marie for providing the recipe for the hot chocolate. Cocoa and chocolate are two different drinks, each one good in its own way. And, yes, kudos for the recognition given to our Latin American brethren for providing the world with this tasty treat for thousands of years.
Amy Baker January 19, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Thanks for the lead on the Mexican Hot Chocolate, Marie. I will have to check it out. During our family taste-test, we found that we preferred Hot Cocoa over Hot Chocolate, which surprised me as stated, but I would still love to try them. Are they chocolate bars to melt in warm milk? And is La Marqueta the shop attached to Cafe Azteca -- home of my favorite guacamole? I hope that you will still try my Cocoa recipe -- the blend of several cocoa powders provide a real depth of flavor. And the frozen one is a real treat!
Mike June 13, 2012 at 06:35 AM
You have to love hot chocolate. Whether its the chocolate taste or the warmth you get when you drink it in winter, it just cheers you up when the weather is cold. I wonder if anyone prepares the drink with goats milk as a substitute. Would it still taste as nice? - http://www.chucklinggoat.co.uk

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