Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hot Cocoa

Okay, so there are no grains in hot cocoa. I have no justification for posting this here, other than I dare not write a chocolate blog, and, while, as a rule, I don't want to stray from the focus of this blog, I will from time to time.

This is one of those times.

I love cocoa. It's one of my major sources of milk, so I drink it nearly every day. Winter, summer, spring, autumn; cold or hot--it doesn't matter--I drink my cocoa.

I don't drink any of the store-bought cocoa mixes. To me, they all--even the "really good" ones--have a funny aftertaste. Also, it's impossible to know how much milk--if any--is in a serving. And the ingredients lists are always too long and complicated.

I make my own cocoa mix. The ingredient list is really short. I know how much milk is in it. I like its aftertaste.

You probably won't like it. That's okay. I share it to show how easy it is to make your own.

Here's a typical cocoa recipe:
Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate (from the Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa container)
 1-1/2 T. Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa
1-1/2 T. sugar
1 C milk
Stove top: Mix cocoa and sugar and set aside. Pour milk into a small pan. Add cocoa mixture and stir. Heat, while stirring, until steaming.
Microwave: Mix cocoa and sugar and set aside. Pour milk into a mug or cup and heat on high for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir in cocoa mixture.
Go here for another typical cocoa recipe.

Here's my cocoa recipe:
Kathy's Hot Cocoa
3 T. Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa
1 T. (scant) Splenda
1/3 C instant nonfat dry milk
1-1/4 C water
Mix cocoa, Splenda, and dry milk in a mug and set aside. Heat water in a microwave oven until hot but not boiling or even simmering--150ish degrees. Pour hot water into the mug containing the cocoa mixture; do not overfill. Stir well, using a small whisk or spoon. Add the rest of the hot water and stir.
  • Why Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa? To me, it tastes a lot better than cheaper brands, even Nestle's and Hershey's. I'm afraid to try Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Cocoa, lest it spoils me for Ghirardelli.
  • One of the reasons I think you will not like my recipe is because I use so much cocoa compared to sweetener. If you develop your own hot cocoa recipe, you can determine what ratio suits you.
  • In moderation, dark chocolate has health benefits: “... recent research about the health benefits of chocolate may persuade you to explore the world of chocolate a little more. The findings suggest that the consumption of chocolate may help prevent high blood pressure, improve heart health, and provide a bounty of antioxidants. … a 2005 USDA study found that unsweetened cocoa powder contained the highest concentration of beneficial compounds of all chocolate products. ... Natural cocoa powder [not “Dutch processed” or “alkalized”] provides the most benefits.” (See "Be Choosy About Chocolate" at Spark People.)
  • And, by definition, cocoa has very little fat content.
  • Until given a better sweetener choice, I'll use Splenda. In general, I'm not a fan of artificial sweeteners. I'm somewhat conflicted about using it in this recipe.
  • Why dry milk? Early on, I tried making hot cocoa using different kinds of milk and even adding cream. Now, while I've weaned myself to nonfat milk, I still love whole milk and cream. But, surprisingly,  I didn't think cream or milk with fat added to the flavor of hot cocoa. Maybe because I love the flavor of cocoa so much. Since I don't really like nonfat milk, I rarely drink it or use it other than in cooking. So I use dry milk. Instant dry milk actually costs more than fresh milk--presently about $3.50 per gallon reconstituted for the Carnation dry milk that I buy at BJ's compared to about $1.95 fresh--but I found myself throwing away lots of expired fresh milk. I don't find any difference in the flavor of fresh or dry when cooking with it. Although I can taste it in the hot cocoa--another reason why you may not like my recipe--I actually like it.
  • I don't know why, but I find that hot cocoa tastes better made with water that is hot but not too hot.
  • I resist the urge to add flavorings to my hot cocoa. I want to keep it simple and straightforward.

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