‘Tis the season! At long last, today I’m doing a post on one of my favorite topics: Hot Chocolate!
I may be a born-and-raised Minnesotan, but I freeze all winter! I happily drink tea and warm beverages all year round, but especially starting around November, I drink hot chocolate nearly every day (this used to be a slight exaggeration… this year it’s simply the truth). Now, I am a creature of variety, so drinking the same hot chocolate recipe every day, however delicious, holds little appeal to me. I’d much rather try all kinds of different recipes! And amidst COVID and quarantine (Not that it changes a lot in my personal goings-on, but Minnesota increased restrictions last week) in winter, what better occupation than to find and experiment with fun new hot chocolate recipes? I certainly can’t think of any!
Lucky for you, I have done lots of research already, so you can benefit from the results! After trying a plethora of different hot chocolates – regular, dark, drinking chocolate, peppermint, snickerdoodle, matcha, lavender, earl grey, chai, peanut butter, Mexican, cardamom, orange, orange cardamom, salted vanilla, cookie butter, caramel, salted caramel, hazelnut, and Nutella, to name a few – I have collected a few of my favorites below. I plan to try many more throughout this holiday season (I have a literal list on my phone of hot chocolates to try!), so if you have suggestions, please comment below or send me a message! And if you try any of these and love them/hate them, I would love to hear your thoughts!
Now, for the hot chocolate. In no particular order (because choosing an order would be far too difficult), we will begin with:
- French Hot Chocolate, aka thick, rich, dark drinking chocolate
As a disclaimer before moving forward, you should know that I am a great lover of dark chocolate, and hot chocolate is no exception. That said, my household is made up of two fans of dark chocolate, and two fans of milk chocolate. However sad and misguided the latter preference may be, I respect it, and do my best to accommodate it (even if I find the resulting hot chocolates rather lacking in depth of flavor). For the most part, I think my dad and sister would agree that I do quite a nice job of catering to their tastes. All of that said, if you are not a fan of rich, dark chocolate flavor, option #1 may not be for you! (You could try it with milk chocolate, though I have not done that myself, for obvious reasons.)
This recipe is a rich drinking chocolate, in the true European style. Rather than using cocoa, this recipe calls for an almost unbelievable amount of chopped dark chocolate (but don’t skimp!), giving one the sensation of drinking almost pure liquified chocolate. This recipe specifically calls for chopped chocolate – while chocolate chips might also work, I have heard that for true drinking chocolate, chopped chocolate bars -which don’t have any stabilizers like chocolate chips (to help the chips maintain their shape during baking) – often melt best and produce the best final result. This recipe also includes an optional pinch of espresso powder, which I used. While you can’t quite taste the espresso, I think it helps to intensify the flavor of the dark chocolate. As my sister remarked upon trying this one, „woah! So thick and bitter.“ (aka – in my opinion – perfect!) If that description appeals to you, please do yourself a favor and try this!
*One another not about this recipe: It calls for milk and cream. I generally try to avoid dairy as much as I can, but I am not fully non-dairy at this point, so I opted to do a mixture of almond milk and cream. I think the cream does contribute to the rich texture of this drink, but if you go for all milk/all almond milk, especially if you’re still using the quantity of chocolate called for, I think that would work just fine!
2. Orange Cardamom Hot Chocolate
I am ever and always a fan of cardamom, but this was a combo I had not thought of before – and it was amazing! The flavors meld so perfectly together! I got the idea for this one after hearing about St. Croix Chocolate Company‘s new caramel sauces, one of which is Orange-Cardamom-flavored. I have not yet had the opportunity to try the sauce, but everything I have ever eaten from St. Croix Chocolate has been delicious and thoroughly enjoyed, so I came to the conclusion this must be a winning flavor combo. After some brief googling, lo and behold, others had decided orange and cardamom made an excellent flavor profile for hot chocolate as well! I have tried this one twice now (and as I mentioned before, I like variety, so anything deemed worthy of repeating ranks quite highly!), and both times enjoyed it thoroughly! My mom and I agree this is among our favorite hot chocolate recipes (I think it ranks in my top two or three for sure). While I mentioned my thoughts on bars vs. chips for drinking chocolate above, for this recipe I used Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips, and they worked perfectly! Feel free to adjust amounts to your preference – I often add a bit more cocoa/chocolate for my mom and I, and add a bit less cocoa/more sugar/less-dark chocolate for my dad and sister. The recipe can hopefully serve as a nice general guideline for you!
ORANGE CARDAMOM HOT CHOCOLATE
3. Black Forest Hot Chocolate
I love cherries and chocolate, and having seen der Schwarzwald (the Black Forest) last year in Germany, I had to try a variation on this recipe when I saw it! Online, many recipes call for cherry liqueur, cherry syrup, or maraschino cherries. My family happened to be out of all of those, and personally I am not much a fun of maraschino cherries. However, having just made a cherry pie for Thanksgiving, my family happened to have cherry juice on hand, and I found that to be an excellent substitute/addition!While similar to the ubiquitous raspberry mochas, I found the cherry flavor to be a bit more tart and flavorful in a way I liked. That said, my family was out of cherry liqueur, so my recipe was really a combination of raspberry and cherry flavors! Necessity is the mother of invention, after all, so feel free to customize this recipe based on the ingredients you have on hand. Next time, I think some cherry-infused whipped cream might be in order for topping!
BLACK FOREST HOT CHOCOLATE
4. Amaretto Hot Chocolate
This was a recent and highly successful hot chocolate experiment! The recipe also calls for delicious almond-infused whipped cream – a lovely idea I had been meaning to try anyways, after seeing it on a friend’s snapchat. I love almond and chocolate together, though I sometimes find the use of almond extract/almond syrups a little overwhelming (or at least, it’s easy to use too much). Amaretto seems to be the perfect, grown-up solution! The only adaptation I would make for next time is perhaps to aim for a milder chocolate flavor. Amaretto liqueur is delicious, but it is a rather subtle flavor. Per usual, I made this recipe in two versions; one with milk chocolate for my dad and sister, and one with dark chocolate (and simply MORE chocolate) for my mom and I. While normally I prefer the more intense chocolate flavor, in this case I found it to be rather overpowering of the liqueur. Rather wishing I’d made my dad and sister’s version for myself, I decided that next time I would aim to rein in my love for rich, dark chocolate (challenging as I know that will be!), in pursuit of a better balance of flavors. All the same, this is on my list to repeat, which – as I mentioned earlier – means it ranks quite highly!
We have now reached the conclusion of this revue. The month of December is still young, however, which means you and I have plenty of time to explore numerous hot chocolate recipes – those highlighted above, and others! I happen to have both tea and chocolate advent calendars this year, but if you do not (or if, like me, you think it sounds like a great idea in addition to your other advent calendars), perhaps you could make your own “calendar” of sorts by trying a different hot chocolate recipe each day! Or maybe you could plan some virtual hot chocolate Zoom dates with friends, perhaps even ones where you make and enjoy the same hot chocolate recipe together! Whatever your plans or however you like to enjoy your hot chocolate – daily, weekly, with friends, with a good book – I hope this blog post provides you some warm, chocolatey inspiration. Cheers to the 2020 holiday season – one in which I think we all deserve a cup of hot chocolate more than ever before!