Friday, January 30

Chocolatey, spicy, nutty or sweet? Pic n mix your own hot cocoa from scratch!

Winter is for watching snow fall with a cosy cup of hot cocoa and romantic, sweet nothings whispered in your ear. As the snow falls thick and fast for a lot of us what better time to make a warming, chocolatey, mug of hot cocoa? Grab your favourite mug, pic n mix your flavours and let's sit by the window to watch the snow shuffle down.

First of all, forget 'hot chocolate mix', we're going old school, get out your cocoa. TIP: don't use the microwave, raw cocoa needs to be 'cooked' on the hob to improve the flavour.

Use skimmed milk, semi or whole milk, it's up to you, go dairy free with almond milk or even soy if you actually like the taste (I'm not a fan!). If you want a super indulgent treat and aren't worried about your waist line, swap half the milk for cream!

And the extras. . . .
Malt extract, Cayenne pepper, Cinnamon, Whipped cream/squirty cream, Toffee or chocolate ice-cream sauce, Flavoured coffee syrups - praline and hazelnut are my faves

1.) Warm your milk gently over a medium heat, stir it regularly to make sure it doesn't burn or microwave it for around a minute and a half.

2.) When it's warmed - not too hot!! Put the milk and cocoa powder in a blender or whisk in your cocoa. (beware! If it's too hot, when you try to take the lid off, the pressure will be so high that it can virtually explode. I once untwisted the blade on my bullet and with a mighty bang it popped off and hot milky cocoa went everywhere! I was left standing utterly shocked) It's up to you how dark you go here, the recommendation is 1 tsp per mug, I believe, but I usually put 2 tsps in.

3.) Return to the heat stirring regularly until it's hot enough. Best not to let it boil but it's not the end of the world if it does.

4.) Transfer it to your mug and personalise your cocoa!
Sugar - if you're not using any of the syrups just add equal amounts sugar to cocoa (add it gradually and taste it so you don't end up with something overly sugary!)
Ice-cream syrup - the toffee is my favourite
Cayenne pepper - inspired by the Whittards chilli hot chocolate which is a tad pricey, it adds an interesting taste to your hot cocoa - give it a try!
Cinnamon - a sprinkle or 2 of ground cinnamon is always a crowd-pleaser
Ginger - an excellent partner to the cinnamon!
Coffee syrups - hazelnut, gingerbread, praline etc etc - remember they are sweet so add them before your sugar and taste
Malt extract - a trendy substitute for sugar which is actually quite yummy!
Malt powder - if, like me, you choose skimmed, non fat milk, the malt powder can help to round out the flavour and make it creamier.
Golden syrup - drooooool

Marshmallows and/or cream top off your chocolatey creation perfectly and don't forget an extra sprinkle of cinnamon over the top of your cream to make it instagrammable!

Far from all the weird ingredients of hot chocolate mix - xantham gum, hydrogenated fat, milk powder etc etc - cocoa powder is made from the fruit of the cacao tree. It is ground up and has nothing added to it. Finally, not all cocoa is created equal -- always check your cocoa powder is fair-trade.

Now get cosy under a blanket, sit by the window, watch one of these 11 Autumn movies for those Hot Chocolate and a Blanket days, and enjoy a snuggly winter evening with your other half, offspring or gorgeous little furry friend.

Ciao for now

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