By Julia Pantoga
For the past month I’ve been on the road, visiting family. Along the way, I did plenty of domestic-goddess things including making a cake with three young children, “helping” a pre-teen clean his room (which mostly consisted of me sitting in a chair and bossing him around for two hours), making dinner with my nine year old niece, washing and chopping vegetables (several people enjoyed having someone around who loves to chop so much). One thing I didn’t do though, is write any of these columns.
Now I’m back home making hot cocoa for friends that are helping me shovel out my car from the snowstorm we had this morning. It is common these days to mix the chocolate sugar that you buy in the grocery store with skim milk and call it hot cocoa. I grew up making hot cocoa from scratch though, and from what I hear from my friends, it is something different entirely. Besides the recipe below, one tip I have is to quadruple the syrup portion of the recipe, use only one portion for the current batch of hot cocoa and keep the rest in a jar in the refrigerator, so that you’re ready for any hot cocoa emergency that pops up. I received fancy cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg as gifts for Christmas, so I expect the batch today to be awesome!
Homemade Hot Cocoa
Note: Cocoa and cinnamon don’t mix well with milk, so it is essential to do this step independently from adding the milk (you can only imagine what store bought brands do to the cocoa to cause it to dissolve so easily in milk).
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (this adds quite a bite; you may wish to use even less; but if you use your hands to add a pinch, be sure to wash them thoroughly before you touch your eye.)
2 tablespoons whole milk (if you have heavy cream, or even half-and-half, for this, use it! The higher the fat content, the better)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1. Measure the first six dry ingredients into a sauce pot. Blend together thoroughly. Remember, if you are using a non-stick pan, you must not scratch the non-stick surface with metal utensils. Use a wooden or plastic spoon or a plastic whisk (not only are scratched pans unsightly, you don’t want that toxic non-stick coating in your food.)
2. Add one tablespoon of the milk. Mix thoroughly into a course paste.
3. Add the vanilla and 2nd tablespoon of milk. Mix thoroughly into a thick syrup. Make sure the syrup is smooth (has no lumps) before storing it or using it in Hot Cocoa.
Syrup (recipe above)
4 cups whole milk
For garnish: chocolate sprinkles, whipped cream, wafer cookies, homemade marshmallows
With the syrup in the sauce pan, add ½ cup of the milk. Mix the syrup and the milk thoroughly before adding the next ½ cup of milk. Mix thoroughly again, then add the remaining 3 cups of milk. Heat gently, stirring often. Be careful here, you want to heat the milk, not boil it. When hot, use a molinillo (Mexican Hot Cocoa Whisk)l to create a froth and make the mixture creamier. Serve and garnish (if you must, I don’t; this hot cocoa stands on its own).