Isn’t it delightful when one of those march snowstorms charges through, leaving a ton more snow than the forecasters initially warned you about? Ahh, yes, these are the days where us New Englanders, and any other folks who have been in similar situations, grumble our heartiest, heave and sigh and shake our fists angrily at the weather gods as we take out those snow shovels once again.
Winter never has been my favorite season. Despite growing up in Connecticut and being accustomed to the white stuff from a very early age. It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s icy. It’s slippery. It’s blustery. It requires tedious manual labor, layers upon layers of unflattering, weather proof attire, and can really put a damper on any sort of travel plans, near or far. But amidst all that, there are a few shining beacons of the season that do agree with me. High among them, is of course, hot chocolate.
Now, since a trip to Europe a year and a half ago “ruined my palette with deliciousness” as a roommate so aptly stated, I am no longer a fan of Swiss Miss. I daresay, any Swiss person would be aghast to find such a sugared-out, not very chocolatey drink would bear the name of their beloved country. It was in Zurich, Switzerland that I had the most delicious cup of hot chocolate in my life, though it was in Germany I came across a chocolate shop that sold 75 different flavors of hot chocolate! Really! Try to come up with that many on your own!
In most other countries, hot chocolate is a dessert, rather than a beverage. In some places it is even so thick, it is served with churros and is treated more like a dipping sauce. Inspired by this treatment, I’ve compiled a list of hot chocolate tips, tricks, and recommendations!
- There are quite a few high quality chocolatiers that make some excellent hot chocolate mixes or blends. My favorites include Marie Belle and Hotel Chocolat. Check out local chocolatiers near you to try their mixes.
- Whenever possible, use hot cream or milk instead of water for your hot chocolate. This will help add to the rich texture.
- Search out stores that sell homemade marshmallows, or make some yourself! While the store-bought Jet Puff kind are easy to find, there is a decided difference between them and home made. The texture and taste are so much nicer, and will complement the hot chocolate nicely.
- Adding whipped cream is one of my favorite things to do. The whipped cream on the hot chocolate I had in Zurich was so fresh tasting, it was as if they might had made it right then and there. Making your own whipped cream is actually very easy. Purchase heavy whipping cream at the grocery store, and fill a small jar or tightly sealed container halfway up. Shake it vigorously. You will feel (and see) it start to thicken up. Keep opening it to check on the consistency. Stop when you see it appear like cream. If you continue to shake it, the buttermilk will separate and you will actually have butter!
- Try adding a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg to kick the flavors up a notch!
- Starbucks sells flavored syrups like the ones they use in their coffee drinks. You can get mint, hazelnut, gingerbread, and other syrups that you can use to add flavors to your hot chocolate.
- Make your hot chocolate a little more adult by adding a splash of creme de menthe, Godiva liqueur, Bailey’s, creme de banana, or other booze. Hey! Sometimes you need a little help relaxing after all that shoveling!
- Williams Sonoma sells some great little gadgets that can help you kick your cocoa up a notch. I have their hot chocolate pot, that helps me blend and froth my hot chocolate, and a microplane that allows me to great solid chocolate into it.
- Finally, if you are very adventurous, make your own hot chocolate at home! It’s all about experimenting. Here is a rather genius recipe for Red Velvet Hot Chocolate with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream. YUM!!