Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hot Cocoa Mix

Cheap Eat Challenge Count Down: 24 days

There's a sad tale to tell with hot cocoa mix made from scratch: It is not cheaper than the store bought stuff, at least right now when the store bought stuff is on sale. (When the store stuff isn't on sale, the homemade can at least sort of compete.) Here we can get 10 packets of Swiss Miss for $1. To make a perfectly good breakfast cocoa at home, you might save $.10 or so, depending on the cost of milk in your area. But powdered milk--a necessary ingredient in a self-sustaining hot chocolate mix--is expensive. Yes, expensive.

Maybe you grew up 20+ years ago like I did and you thought dry milk was cheap. Maybe you've even seen comments on the Internet about how buying it is a great way to save money. Well, my friends, I hate to be the great disillusioner, but these days dry milk is stupidly expensive. At Aldi or WalMart it's going to run you at least $4 to make a gallon of the nasty stuff. I can get fresh milk for half that at Aldi. I realize that powdered milk has a shelf life and all. You can take it camping. You can live on it snowed into your house for four weeks. But still, it's obscene expense is something of a mystery to me, namely because it is nasticular, especially the "cheap" stuff. Phew, it felt good to get that off my chest. (If anyone can explain why it's expense to me, or tell me where people get it cheap, I'd appreciate it.)

Rants about powdered milk aside, it is a necessary ingredient in homemade hot cocoa mix. And although it may be somewhat more expensive, it's still only going to run you about $.18/cup. And just because it isn't cheaper doesn't mean it isn't better. It has less bizarre ingredients. Store bought hot cocoa is almost ridiculous in its use of weird stuff. The ingredient list in my Swiss Miss runs as such:

corn syrup
modified whey (not just normal whey, mind you--it is somehow modified; dare we ask how; we dare not), cocoa
hydrogenated coconut oil
nonfat milk (oh, there you are milk, hello)
calcium carbonate
Less than 2 % of:
dipotassium phosphate
mono- and diglycerides
artificial flavor

The ingredient list for my homemade cocoa mix goes like this:
Nonfat milk

Also, you can do it up real cute if you'd like to give it as a gift. (Yes, I realize you can do it with the store-bought stuff too. Fine.)

Also, you can spice it up in any kind of crazy way you wish. This recipe uses cinnamon and nutmeg (which also serve to disguise the fact that there is powdered milk in this product). But feel free to use your imagination. You can candy it up with caramels, crushed peppermints, chocolate shavings or kisses. You can add warm spices like cloves, ginger (ground or not), or allspice. You can use more grown up spices like anise seed, cayenne pepper, or a dash of black pepper.

Hot Cocoa Mix
Serves 10

A note on sugar: Many recipes called for powdered sugar. I assume this is because it dissolves more quickly, or perhaps people feel that it thickens their brew in a desireable way. I tried it with both powdered and granulated and although both were fine, I preferred the granulated. It tasted better and I didn't have any trouble getting it to dissolve. That said, I did blend my mix (more on that below). However, if you've ever put granulated sugar, or perhaps even a sugar cube, in hot water, you know that it will dissove without too much trouble.

A note on powdered milk: I blended the whole mix in the blender. Why? Because I use cheap powdered milk and find it a bit clumpy. Blending it makes the mix nice and powdery and may help the tastier granulated sugar to dissolve faster.

3 C granulated sugar
3 C dry milk (I'm sure if you can find it in whole, it will be tastier, but mine was skim and worked fine)
1 C cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Blend all ingredients in blender.

To make hot cocoa: (Don't forget to include these instructions if you're giving it away)

Add 1/4 C hot cocoa mix to 3/4 C very hot water. Mix well. Drop a Hershey's kiss in the bottom if you must. Enjoy.

I just found this hot chocolate on a stick on yahoo and could not control myself. I must post a poo poo on this ridiculously expensive gift showcased as a cheap gift. It's 8 oz of chocolate for $18 dollars. (That works out to $36/pound if you're having a bad math day.) This chocolate is on a stick and you swirl it into your own milk. It makes me want to spit in their hoity toity hot chocolate.

Want to give this? Get some ice cube trays or if you want to be fancier, a large-ish chocolate mold from a place like Michael's (you're going to add about 1 oz. of chocolate to each one). Add 3/8 C (3 Tbsp or 1 oz) quality chocolate (melted) to each mold/ice cube section. Heck, you could probably melt it in the mold or the ice cube tray. I'd recommend a quality milk chocolate, but use whatever floats your boat. You can get 12 oz of Ghiradelli right now for $2- $2.50 in my neck of the woods. Finer chocolate is still a steal compared to those silly chocolate sticks.

Stick a stick in the melted chocolate when it's set enough to hold it up. (if you get the right kind of mold, it might even have a spot for a stick.) Or stick in a plastic spoon. Or some fun cheap holiday spoons (we found some at Target a few weeks ago). Or a peppermint stick. Or a cinnamon stick.

But whatever you do, don't buy those stupid things. Arg. Arg. Double Christmas commercial celebrity arg.


  1. Silly, you buy your powdered milk from the cannery. It's $7 for a #10 can (about 4 lbs of the stuff). It's not great, but if you add a tsp of vanilla and a tsp of sugar to a QUART of it and let it sit in the fridge overnight, it tastes like regular skim milk. A can makes 69 cups of milk which equals 4.3 gallons. So it's about $1.60 per gallon.
    The price at the cannery fluctuates. A couple of years ago, I think it was down to about $5 a can...
    Oh, and while I have powdered milk, that's not what we drink :)

  2. Vanessa said the same thing and $1.60/gallon is a very good price. And even if you didn't like drinking it (and seriously, who would), you could use it in baking and things like that to very good effect I'm sure. Ahtough, I still maintain that long-distance trips to the cannery aside, powdered milk is just expensive.



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