Long ago in a galaxy far far away, I was a tester for a cookbook. Two cookbooks, actually, but one of them had a recipe for hot chocolate in it. The kind of hot chocolate that makes you understand where the name “hot chocolate” came from. Rich velvety liquid chocolate, it was a decadent delight, a chocolate lovers dream.
Mostly when we have hot chocolate (at least in my world), it is with almond or soy milk, cocoa powder, and some sugar. It is wonderful, and something I have more often than I’d like to admit, but it is definitely different than that decadent hot chocolate made from actual chocolate.
I think most of us who are chocolate lovers know that chocolate has an interesting and ancient history.
I looked up some information, using Wikipedia’s hot chocolate entry as my source:
The first chocolate beverage is believed to have been created by the Mayan peoples around 2000 years ago, and a cocoa beverage was an essential part of Aztec culture by 1400 A.D. The beverage became popular in Europe after being introduced from Mexico in the New World, and has undergone multiple changes since then. Today, hot chocolate is consumed throughout the world and comes in multiple variations including the very thick cioccolata densa served in Italy, and the thinner hot cocoa that is typically consumed in the United States.
Another interesting tidbit is that at least in the U.S., we flub the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate. There is a distinct difference!
Americans have come to use the terms “hot chocolate” and “hot cocoa” interchangeably, obscuring the considerable difference between the two. “Hot cocoa” is made from powder made by extracting most of the rich cocoa butter from the ground cacao beans. “Hot chocolate,” on the other hand, is made directly from bar chocolate, which already contains cocoa, sugar and cocoa butter. Thus the major difference between the two is the cocoa butter, which makes hot cocoa significantly lower in fat than hot chocolate, while still preserving all the intrinsic health-giving properties of chocolate.
So what I typically make is actually hot cocoa. I’m going to make an effort to make the distinction in my word choice from now on, because my typical post-work treat of hot cocoa, delicious as it is, shouldn’t be confused with the decadent hot chocolate!
I’m talking about this tonight because when I looked at the weather before I left work, I saw that I was about to be facing 25mph winds. I ride year round. I rode in 7 inches of snow last year. Not, admittedly, the smartest thing to do on a bike that isn’t a snow bike, but I made it okay, had fun, and learned a lot. Like why snow bikes don’t have fenders. Anyway, I ride in all weather. Rain, check. Cold, check. Hot, check. Wind, unfortunately yeah. Of all the elements, it is wind that beats me down the most. So seeing that I was about to go out and get hammered by the wind, I promised myself that I’d make some hot cocoa when I got home.
The only problem is that I got home, heated up the almond milk on the stove (I don’t have room for a microwave in my microkitchen), and opened up the cocoa canister to realize that I had almost no cocoa!
Luckily I’d learned from that cookbook testing I did ages ago. I didn’t bother to look up the recipe, I just got out some chocolate chips and poured some in to the heated almond milk. After a minute (chocolate chips melt very fast!), I stirred, tasted, added a few more chips, stirred again, added some sugar.
And there you go, a recipe for hot chocolate, as opposed to hot cocoa. Some almond/soy/rice/hemp/coconut milk, some chocolate chips, some sugar. All of it is to taste. And this is just the absolute basic starter ingredients.
You can add vanilla, cinnamon and chili powder. You can add whatever you like, whatever suits your fancy and your imagination, and have almost infinite varieties.
And if nothing else, it is simply something you can keep in mind, in case you ever find yourself desperate for hot cocoa but with no cocoa at hand. (And, presumably, as lazy as I am, making a trip to the grocery store out of the question!)