Homemade Hot Chocolate Recipe

Once you experiment with homemade hot chocolate, you may never let hot cocoa grace your hot chocolate mugs again.When the air turns chilly and the change in weather keeps you inside, there are few things more comforting than a mug of hot chocolate. Not to be confused with cocoa, which is a chocolate powder stripped of cocoa butter fat, hot chocolate is a seriously decadent drink.

Start with the Best Chocolate
Before you turn on the stove, you'll want to be sure you have high quality chocolate on hand to make your hot chocolate. Both the type of chocolate you choose-unsweetened, bittersweet or semisweet, for example-and the brand will influence the flavor, so you may want to make several batches until you find the type and brand you like best.

Contrary to popular belief, the quality of chocolate has more to do with how it's handled and processed than its percentage of cocoa solids. You may find that you like the taste of some brands that have lower percentages or that percentages that are too high are overpowering. High-quality chocolate will feel smooth to the touch, appear shiny and break cleanly and easily.

The proper tasting technique is to let a piece of chocolate sit on your tongue for a few seconds, then press it on the roof your mouth. Like wine, the flavor should spread across your palate and deliver a finish that you'll either like or not.

If you're still not sure where to start, take the time to study your favorite gourmet hot chocolate mixes or organic hot chocolate mixes to see what kinds of chocolate they include. If possible, purchase the same types of bars to use in your own.

Gather Your Ingredients
Traditional hot chocolate is made only with chocolate and milk, although you can use cream or a mixture of the two. Be aware that the fat content in the milk or cream will determine how rich your hot chocolate is. Generally, the higher the fat content, the more rich it will be. The same holds true for using nondairy alternatives, like soymilk. Aside from the change in flavor, the fat content in different soy products will affect the richness.

While some recipes may call for sugar, resist adding it before you've had a chance to taste the hot chocolate. You may find that the chocolate and milk are enough to please your palate.

If you want to put a twist on the classic, consider adding ground cinnamon or using cinnamons sticks to stir the hot chocolate after serving. Incorporating Mexican chile will give you Mexican hot chocolate and peppermint hot chocolate is easily achieved with a few drops of organic peppermint oil. Coffee lovers can replace half the milk with their favorite fresh brew for mochas at home. Want vanilla hot chocolate? Add a few drops of pure vanilla extract.

Get Your Chocolate Ready
If your chocolate is in bar form, use the heel of your chef's knife to chop it. If you bought a block of chocolate, use a box grater or seal the block in a plastic bag and use something heavy to break it into smaller pieces. Aim to break your chocolate down into ¼ inch pieces which speeds the melting process.

Heat the Milk
You can choose to heat your milk (or cream) in a saucepan or, if you have a milk steamer at home, you can use that to both heat and froth the milk before you add the chocolate. If you use the stovetop heating method, use your heaviest bottomed pan. Rinse it with water before adding the milk to help keep it from scorching and adhering to the pan.

The key to heating milk properly is to keep the heat on medium to medium-low. It may take longer to heat, but you'll reduce the chances that you'll burn it. Look for bubbles to begin forming along the side of pan or use your candy thermometer to take it to your desired temperature.

Basic Hot Chocolate Recipe
Serves 2

3 cups of whole milk
3oz of your favorite chocolate, chopped into ¼ inch pieces

Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat, add the chocolate and whisk until blended.

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