Cheap Eat Challenge Count Down: 25 days
Allow me to begin with a confession: I have yet to find the perfectly perfect cup of hot chocolate.
In fact, I find hot chocolate very conflicting. (Perhaps I don't have enough real troubles in my life.) The store bought is too sweet and full of weird ingredients. Homemade can be gritty if made with cocoa. And if made with chocolate, then it is liquid dessert. And frankly, I prefer my desserts in solid form. If I'm going to add 1/4 C chocolate to milk, I'd just as soon eat the chocolate and wash it down with a glass of milk.
To further complicate this thickening plot with it's wiley cast of characters, we have a house that we heat almost exclusively with a wood burning stove. Which means that on cold mornings, I'm looking for something to warm the family up without maxing out our sugar quota for the day. And I haven't found it.
Oh, I've found plenty of good recipes, but not yet the perfectly perfect one--that one that tastes like milk chocolate chips have been melted in milk and cream, but that contains a good dose of cocoa with minimal sugar. A sort of one size fits all: Christmas Eve dinner party indulgence, check; cold morning for little kids, check, sweet something in the evening when the hubby's at work, check. I'm beginning to wonder if it actually exists.
And so I will present you with what I do have: three great recipes that will meet your various hot chocolate needs. Just not all at once.
Best Hot Chocolate (aka Liquid Dessert)
This is my favorite hot chocolate recipe. I just feel a bit guilty drinking it. It's best when you want to indulge: Christmas Eve, Winter parties, a date with a special someone, that sort of thing.
A note on the chocolate chips: They must be milk. (And this is from someone who loves dark dark chocolate.) Semi-sweet or dark work okay, but they don't melt as nicely and you end up with a grittiness in your milk. Also, the milk chocolate just works better in milk. Go figure.
3/4 C milk chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli)
1 3/4 C milk (We tend to use whole or 2% because that's what we drink. You heard me, Mom and Dad. I haven't had skim in years. A kid has to rebel at some point.)
1/8 tsp mint extract (opt)
whipped cream (opt)
Heat on stove till chips melt. I use a whisk to mix it will. Remove from heat and add mint. Top with whipped cream if desired.
Breakfast Hot Cocoa
1/3 C cocoa
1/3 C granulated sugar
4 C milk (or 1/2 C hot water and 3 1/2 C milk--this sort of brings the chocolate out more, but I usually don't do it.)
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional. This doesn't make it taste almond-y. It actually makes it taste a little dark chocolate-y-er (I'm sure that's totally in the dictionary) If you still don't like the sound of it, add 1/4 tsp mint or 3/4 tsp vanilla
Combine cocoa, sugar, and salt in saucepan. Add the hot water or a bit of the milk. Heat until dry ingredients have dissoved (again, I use a whisk to ensure and expediate this process). Add remaining milk and heat to serving temperature.
Laced Hot Cocoa
No, it's not laced with booze or anything like that, so if that's what you were looking for, you're going to be sorely disappointed. This version is for those among you who like your breakfast hot cocoa even more nutritious (and also a little creamier.) It's also for those who want to healthify a store-bought package of hot cocoa.
1 Tbsp cocoa
1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 C milk
1 Tbsp sweet potato puree
1/4 tsp vanilla (optional)
Combine cocoa, sugar, and a bit of milk till dry ingredients dissolved. Add milk and warm it. Add sweet potato puree and vanilla if using. Mix it up well. (You can blend it, but I do just fine mixing with a spoon.)
Note: Alternatively you can use a store bought package of hot cocoa and add 1 Tbsp sweet potato puree to it.
To make sweet potato puree:
Roast sweet potatoes in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour (till they squish when you squeeze them. Squeeze them with a hot pad on--they're hot). Take them out and let them cool. Scoop out the insides and put it in a blender or food processor. Add water until it blends without ruining the motor on your blender. I start with 1/4 C, but usually need more--I'm guessing 1/2 C to 1 C. Use it in winter smoothies or feed it to your baby or freeze it in ice cube trays, then put in Ziploc bags and yank one out every once in a while when this food blogger demands it of you.