Hot Chocolate With A Kick

A good cup of hot chocolate — homemade, with quality ingredients, and definitely not from a packet — is a powerful thing.

The basic recipe for hot chocolate is simple — dairy and chocolate. But for new spins on this classic treat, we turned to Anne Milneck, a chef and owner of Red Stick Spice Company in Baton Rouge. As a Girl Scout troop leader, she credits cocoa for bringing her girls together around many campfires. One of her favorite tricks: A little heavy cream.

“Maybe not on a daily basis, but certainly when we’re gathering with friends and family, a splash — OK, honestly, a glug — of heavy cream is added to the milk,” she says. “A little half-and-half or heavy cream ups the decadence and enjoyment factor.”

You can also try out different combinations of chocolate:

  • White chocolate is made of sugar, milk and cocoa butter, minus the cocoa solids.
  • Next up the ladder is milk chocolate, a solid chocolate made with milk.
  • Semisweet chocolate is frequently used in cooking as is dark chocolate with half as much sugar as cocoa.
  • Dark chocolate is produced with a higher percentage of cocoa, usually mixed with cocoa butter but also various mixtures of milk.
  • There’s also cocoa powder, which is commonly used in baking. There are two kinds of powder: natural cocoa and Dutch-process cocoa. Natural cocoa is more acidic than Dutch-process, which is made with alkali to neutralize the acid so it more easily blends with liquids.

Finally, consider subbing in coffee for milk or hot water, to turn your hot chocolate into a mocha. Community® Cafe Special® Decaffeinated is a great choice for nighttime sipping.

Here are three recipes Milneck says she’ll be making on repeat this winter.

Aztec Spiced Cocoa

  • 2 tbsps. Aztec Spiced Cocoa mix (Includes Vietnamese cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt and other spices)
  • 1 cup milk or brewed coffee (to make it a mocha)
  • Half-and-half or heavy cream, to taste
  1. Add the base liquid (milk or coffee) and cocoa mix to your mug.
  2. Stir to combine.
  3. Add half-and-half or cream and top with marshmallows.

White Chocolate Mocha

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 4 oz. white chocolate
  • 2 tsps. vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • Brewed coffee
  1. Pour all but the coffee in a saucepan. Stirring frequently, heat until the chocolate is melted, then whisk constantly for two minutes. Do not allow to boil.
  2. Pour half a mug of coffee and top with the white chocolate mixture. Garnish with whipped cream or marshmallows and, if desired, a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Homemade Marshmallows

  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 ¼-ounce packets of plain gelatin
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsps. vanilla puree
  • ½ cup potato starch
  • ½ cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla bean powder 

  1. Line a 9-by-9-inch square pan with foil and coat with nonstick spray. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to bloom.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, combine the remaining water, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring often. When the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is clear, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to clean any sugar crystals that have formed. Do not stir after this point.
  3. Boil until the thermometer reaches soft-ball stage — 240 degrees. This will take 15-20 minutes.
  4. With the mixer running, pour the hot syrup in a slow stream down the side of the bowl into the gelatin. This will prevent splatter and burns. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 15 minutes until the mixture is very thick and stiff. Pour in vanilla puree and beat for about 30 seconds to incorporate.
  5. Using a wet spatula, press the mixture in the prepared pan. Keep rewetting the spatula as needed and smooth down the mixture. Cover with foil and allow to cool for several hours at room temperature; there’s no need to refrigerate.
  6. Combine the potato starch, powdered sugar and vanilla bean powder in a large bowl. Turn the marshmallows onto a silicon mat, sheet of parchment or cutting board. Cut into large squares and toss each marshmallow in the mixture to coat all sides. Tap off excess and place on a platter. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to four weeks.