Cookoo About Cocoa
One of my favorite things this time of year is a nice hot cup of cocoa. It started when I was a kid back in Georgia sitting around the fire (only heat in the house besides a couple gas furnaces) with my brother and cousins during the holidays. My grandmother would make hot chocolate and toast for dipping as we gathered in the warmth of the roaring fire in the kitchen on the cold Southern mornings.
Needless to say this wasn’t gourmet cocoa we were drinking, but the milk chocolate prepackaged stuff from some company. Those days are long gone, but I still love the memory and this is something I know share with my son each morning when he is with me. And we have upgraded our cocoa to something a little better than Swiss Miss by making our own Hot Cocoa Mix. Being a bartender and lover of all things drink, this is also something that my son and I make for friends and family each year as gifts, because nothing in my opinion is better than a gift of drink, especially when it is homemade and from the hands and heart.
Before we get to the recipe and variations, let’s talk about cocoa powder: There are 2 basic types of cocoa powder: Natural and Dutch Processed (or simply “dutched”). Natural cocoa powder is most commonly used for baking as it’s pH is below 7 (meaning it is acidic) and can react to baking with minimal leavening. Dutch Cocoa is washed with a potassium carbonate solution neutralizing the acidic nature of the cocoa powder and raising the pH to 7 (or neutral acidity). Dutch has a smoother less citric quality and flavor. There are also combinations of the two, which can be fun as well. It;s primarily comes down to personal preference. There is also what’s called ‘black” or onyx cocoa which is a even more ‘dutched” cocoa raising the pH of the powder to 8 (alkaline) and is quite tasty as well (think Oreo cookie like)
So on the the basic powder
1 cup Cocoa powder of choice
2 cups organic cane sugar
Combine in a medium bowl or stand mixer using whisk attachment on low speed in fully combined.
Pretty simple right?
To make a cup of cocoa, simply heat 6-8 oz of milk in a sauce pan on medium heat (don’t boil it!) add 2 tablespoons of cocoa mix and a a few drops of vanilla extract. Pour into your favorite mug and sit by the fire (did I need to tell you to start the fire first?)
Now some variations:
Use Coconut or Almond Milk instead of regular milk
Add a few drops of peppermint oil/extract for a fun peppermint patty like flavor for the little kids
Peppermint Schnapps work great for the grown kids
Chocolate shavings hand whipped cream can make a great addition
Top with a little cinnamon (canela not cassia) for a Mexican style cocoa
and for the super adventurous. Double the vanilla, spike with a shot of bourbon, add a touch of hand whipped cream, and sprinkle a few pecan pieces on top for a liquid version of a Bourbon Ball
Happy Holidays from The Santa Fe Barman