I know my last post was about hot chocolate, too, but in times like these, we could all use a little more hot chocolate I think! Also, this just happens to be a topic I’m very passionate about! Here in Minnesota it is finally warming up enough to make outdoor activities a little more palatable after a few weeks of bitterly cold temps, but now Southern states are getting walloped by cold and snow! All of that to say – at least for those of with power – this might be a good time to indulge in some toasty, heart (and body)-warming hot chocolate.
Now, if you’re anything like me, hot chocolate can get pretty boring pretty fast if you‘re using box mixes, or even if you’re making it homemade, but making it the same way each time. Thankfully, there are so many ways to customize hot chocolate and make it fun, you need not let that be the limiting factor in your hot chocolate interest and intake!
Today, I‘ll highlight one hot chocolate recipe for the actual drink – cinnamon caramel hot chocolate (with cookie butter whipped cream)- but the rest of the post will be all about additions, garnishes, and embellishments you can use regardless of the hot chocolate recipe (or mix) base you use. If you’re looking for more inspiration for actual recipes for hot chocolate drinks, check out my blog post on some of my favorite hot chocolate recipes!
An excellent addition to any hot chocolate beverage. Jet Puffed minis are a great classic, but flavored marshmallows can be fun too! Dandies are an excellent vegan option that comes in vanilla and peppermint flavors. We have some Stuffed Puffs chocolate-filled marshmallows I bought for S‘mores this fall, and putting one of those in my hot chocolate was AMAZING. You have to have hot enough hot chocolate for that to work, but get that down and you have a delicious marshmallow with pure molten chocolate in the middle, ready to greet your tastebuds and join and enhance your mug of cocoa! (While conducting research for this post, I discovered that Stuffed Puffs also has chocolate marshmallows filled with peppermint bark! I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a seriously next-level hot chocolate accompaniment!) Katherine Anne makes delicious large artisan-style marshmallows, in all kinds of fun flavors, like cinnamon sugar, salted caramel, and champagne! And better yet – you can make your own! I don’t think is something people consider very often, but it’s not hard. I’ve tried this once now, and I‘m looking forward to trying further attempts at different flavors- lavender vanilla, coffee, caramel swirl, cherry, or even blueberry marshmallows all sound delicious to me! Pop them in your mug to add melty, sugary deliciousness, or dip them in chocolate and serve them on their own on the side!
If you’re feeling inspired, here are a few recipes to get you started!
- Vanilla Bean (the one I tried)
- Chocolate-Covered Strawberry
- Lavender and Honey
2. Whipped Cream
Who doesn’t love a good heap of homemade whipped cream on top of their hot chocolate? If you’re non-dairy, there are options (mainly homemade coconut whipped cream), but I have yet to master that one – stay tuned! For those partaking of dairy, this an area ripe for creativity! Vanilla whipped cream is certainly a classic, and can be especially nice to cut the richness of a thick cup of true drinking chocolate, but there are many other tasty option! Among the ones I’ve tried are:
- Classic Vanilla (add a tsp or two of vanilla and a scoop of powdered sugar to one pint of heavy whipping cream)
- Cookie butter (see recipe below)
- Hazelnut (add 2 or 3 tablespoons of hazelnut liqueur)
- Cinnamon (add cinnamon and powdered sugar, or cinnamon syrup)
- Chocolate (add cocoa powder and powdered sugar)
- Almond (add a teaspoon of almond extract and powdered sugar, or a splash of Amaretto liqueur)
- Peanut Butter (add some soft or melted peanut butter)
- Cherry (add a splash of cherry juice, along with some powdered sugar and vanilla)
- Mint (add a bit of peppermint extract or a MINUSCULE amount of peppermint oil and powdered sugar)
If you have an Isi whipper, making whipped cream at home is incredibly easy, but if not, that’s no excuse! You can make it quite feasibly with a stand or hand mixer (spooning it on just might produce slightly less Instagram-worthy results than the Isi-whipped version). I like to put a layer of marshmallows down before applying whipped cream, just so it doesn’t melt away too fast!
3. Syrups, Liqueurs, and More
Maybe you have a great base hot chocolate recipe or mix, but you’d like to mix it up now and then with something fairly simple. Syrups and Liqueurs are your answer! Torani syrups – in flavors like caramel, vanilla, hazelnut, and raspberry – can add a fun, new element, as can homemade syrups – like cinnamon, lavender, and cherry syrups (all quite easy to make)! If making your own hot chocolate, just reduce how much sugar you mix in with the cocoa powder, as the syrups will add sweetness.
For those of us adults who want to add a bit of sophistication to our hot chocolates, try a liqueur! I’ve tried a number of different ones this year, and they have all enhanced my hot chocolate experience, but Godiva liqueur is my current favorite. The Godiva somehow brings out the depth and flavor of the hot chocolate, enhancing it without overpowering or adding too much of its own flavor. If you’re not sure Godiva’s for you, or if you simply don’t have it on hand, take a look in your liquor cabinet! I tried Frangelico (hazelnut), Amaretto (almond), Cointreu (orange), Kahlua (coffee), Chamborde (raspberry), Crème de Menthe (mint), and Irish Cream, all with excellent results! If you like a rich, thick hot chocolate, try this first with something a little lighter – liqueurs tend to be subtle, and I found that my first few attempts with liqueur this year were rather overshadowed by quantity of chocolate flavor in most of my favorite recipes. Pair liqueur-flavored hot chocolate with liqueur-flavored whipped cream for the ultimate mature hot chocolate experience!
If you’re really feeling adventurous, or you’re not as interested in sweet syrups or alcohol, try experimenting with a tea-hot chocolate fusion! Adding matcha to hot chocolate (dark, milk, or white) is a rather fresh take on the old classic, and adding early grey (and lavender) or chai (and spices) can make for a novel and rather refined cup of hot chocolate.
Your hot chocolate mug is full, topped with marshmallows and a swirl of delicately flavored whipped cream. You’re now ready for the last step! There are so many things you can do to enhance your hot chocolate – in terms of both aesthetics and palate. A sprinkle of spice – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, or cocoa powder – can add I nice visual element and a pop of flavor.
Chopped up candy (such as mint Kit Kat bars, which I tried earlier this year, or crushed peppermint), crushed cookies (e.g. crushed oreos or gingersnaps), and chocolate chips can all add something, and are excellent choices for hot chocolate bars – let all customize to their liking!
Peppermint sticks or cinnamon sticks make great flavor-contributing stir sticks (and having something to stir just enhances the experience, too, don’t you think? I know I do!). Sprinkles, of course, are a much-appreciated garnish, particularly if children are involved. While they don’t always impart much flavor, certain kinds (e.g. Dutch chocolate sprinkles) can, and if nothing else, they add a very pleasing visual element, that can be easily customized for the holiday or occasion!
5. Bonus: Trending Forms of Hot Chocolate
In the day and age of the internet – combined with pent-up pandemic energy – there has been a flurry of foodie innovation, and hot chocolate is no exception! Perhaps you have heard of Dalgona coffee, the South Korean-inspired drink that went viral via TikTok? If you’re a coffee drinker – try it! It’s whipped texture is ever-so-satisfying, but without the heaviness that often comes with whipped cream. If you are not a coffee drinker, however, you’re in luck! The recipe is a bit different, because cocoa powder does not contain gluten, as instant coffee does. But you can remedy this by either using heavy whipping cream – producing a result that is something like chocolate whipped cream – or by adding egg white or aquafaba. I tried both and thought they were delicious; I probably slightly preferred flavor of the whipping cream version, but I was also partial to the appearance and lightness of the one made with egg whites, and found it more similar to the original Dalgona coffee. These can be made with hot or cold milk, depending on your preference, and while they certainly aren’t quite the same as hot chocolate, I think they are a fun, trendy drink to try!
Finally, who hasn’t heard of the cocoa bomb sensation that flew into the mainstream this Christmas? If you haven’t tried a cocoa bomb yet, I highly recommend that you do. I first tried these by making my own. If you can get your hands on the right molds (which were nearly impossible to find this winter due to the high demand), they’re not hard to make (NYT provides a nice tutorial here). While they probably aren’t much tastier than homemade hot chocolate, they are very satisfying to watch – you pour hot milk over the bomb, the chocolate melts, and powder and marshmallows appear! They also look very cute if you add decoration (many thanks to my sister Leah for her decorating skills!), and would make a nice gift.. If you make them yourself, you can also decide what to put in them – add caramel, liqueur, candy, flavored marshmallows, or anything mentioned above, according to your tastes! All of that said, should you want to purchase them, I recommend those from St. Croix Chocolate Company! (I have no vested interests here, this is just my personal opinion and recommendation!) They aren’t cheap, but they’re made locally in Minnesota, and all of their products – chocolates and cocoa bombs included – are of incredible quality.
As promised, below you will find one hot chocolate recipe below – cinnamon caramel hot chocolate with cookie butter whipped cream! Incidentally, this was a combo I tried while making cocoa bombs, and my sister was a fan. While I didn’t mention it above, caramel makes for another excellent enhancement to any mug of hot chocolate!
Thanks for tuning in, and you hope you all have a warm and cheery week – perhaps helped along by a mug of next-level hot chocolate.
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