To me, there are a few things more comforting than a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter's night. With an uncharacteristic (though very welcome from my viewpoint) snowfall here in the Seattle area, Brian and I have been indulging in this simple and utterly blissful holiday tradition. And, why not? It's a wonderful way to get a little more calcium into my diet, which is very important during pregnancy. At least, that's what I tell myself.
I am fond of hot chocolate, which is different from hot cocoa: made with chocolate and water, served very rich and thick, usually in a demitasse cup. In the first days of Spring, there's nothing like a small sip of deep, dark hot chocolate. But, the bitter winds of winter seem to call for a big mug, full of hot, creamy cocoa to wrap your chilled hands around and savor long and slowly. Personally, I loathe the overly sweet cocoa packets that they sell in the store. They're not only much more expensive than homemade cocoa, they result in a dismally inferior taste and consistency. For real, thick, frothy hot cocoa, here is my stand-by recipe. I hope it brings some warmth and holiday cheer to your winter nights.
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1/4 c. water
4 c. whole milk (the full fat content really makes a difference in taste and consistency, but if you must lower the fat content, please at least use 2%, not skim)
1 t. vanilla
Whisk sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Add water, whisking until smooth and syrup just begins to boil. Add milk, and stir occassionally to be certain that none of the milk scalds in the pan or forms a skin on top. When milk is steaming and very hot (but not boiling), pour into mugs. Top with whipped cream or marshmallows, if you like. Enjoy, preferably with your family, gathered in front of a roaring fire.