How To: Hot Chocolate, from Scratch

Few things are as calming as a nice hot drink on a winter evening. My poison of choice? Hot chocolate. And I don’t mean Swiss Miss.

Not that I have  a problem with the idea of Swiss Miss–I used to work at a week-away camp that loyally used the brand. As an early riser (at least compared to the teenagers on staff and the pre-teens we shepherded around), I would hang out in the kitchen talking to the poor chaperones who got wrangled into chopping up fruit salad at 6:00 in the morning. On those mornings, I sometimes got to be the taste-tester for the hot chocolate and those are some warm memories.

But being all concerned about ingredients and eating well, I have recently started looking into this stuff. I am a firm believer in making food (especially sweets, and hot chocolate is a sweet) from scratch. You’re less likely to over-indulge (at least in my experience) because you had to measure things out and make it–a homemade mixed berry pie is a four-hour long baking ordeal between my rolling-pin and my oven. In any case, last year, I decided that I wanted to perfect homemade hot chocolate and that meant looking into the “competition”. Swiss Miss. Nestle. You get the point.

And I found that there are some problems with those little packet cocoa mixes. According to the Swiss Miss ingredients list, there is sugar and corn syrup (lots of sweet), preservatives (Honey is a preservative. Salt is a preservative. Vinegar can be a preservative. Preservatives aren’t categorically unhealthy, but I try to be cautious about the random ones), and random fats (mono- and di-glycerides. Definitely not isolated ingredients I would cook with). Not stuff I want to be putting into my body on a whim.

So, on to the recipes! But when I first looked up how to make my own from scratch, I saw ingredients like powdered milk. I am not so big on powdered milk–I am currently looking into claims about oxidized cholesterol–and I knew there had to be a better way. Even better, it was a simpler one.

I use a 1 to 1 ratio of chocolate powder to sugar, usually about a tablespoon of each stirred into 6 to 8 ounces of warm milk. I was actually inspired by Ghirardelli’s Ground Chocolate mix. I read somewhere once upon a time that it was a 1 to 1 blend of sugar and chocolate and they sold it as baking chocolate and the beverage mix. In any case, this stuff is good–and it can be tailored to your own tastes. Add more chocolate, use chopped up chocolate to make it richer, add some spices. I  like a dash of cinnamon! Three simple ingredients (or just a few more with some spices!) will make a perfectly fabulous cuppa cocoa, and without the weird additives.

So, heat up a little milk, add a dash of homemade cocoa mix, and a little bit of flavor if you like–’tis the season, so you can do fun stuff like stir it with a peppermint stick 🙂 Grab one of those warm blankets and curl up with something to read or watch (or, if you feel like balancing that sweet tooth with some studying, you could look at your notes or Khan Academy) and enjoy a little time for yourself!

What is your favorite hot drink this winter? How do you make it yourself? 

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