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Raking Reward

October 24, 2010

My guess is that we are past the peak, but I’m not an expert on fall foliage.  While there are some beautiful colored leaves on the trees now, there are also a lot of naked branches.  That means a lot of leaves on the lawn to rake up.

Luckily I have children.

Presumably at some point the novelty wears thin, but young kids love leaves.  They like to rake them into piles and roll around in the dead and dirty leaves.  I have no idea what this is about, but if it means free labor, I’m all for it.

Well, it’s not entirely free.  Young Master Fussy is compelled into this labor with the promise of hot cocoa.  And he was excited for the first homemade hot cocoa of the season.  Although truth be told, I think he was probably more excited about the marshmallows that accompany the drink than the drink itself.

But I’m not here to talk about marshmallows; I want to talk to you about hot cocoa.  Specifically, I want to explain how easy it is to make it from scratch, and why you might want to do it.

Do you know what the ingredients are in cocoa powder? Cocoa.

The simplest way to make hot cocoa from scratch is to take one tablespoon of cocoa powder and one tablespoon of sugar and mix them together in a small saucepan.  A pinch of salt adds depth of flavor.  Measure out eight ounces of your favorite milk, and you’ve got everything you need, except for heat, time and a little bit of technique.

The technique is easy, but it takes a few words to explain.  Dribble in a little bit of the milk into the cocoa and sugar mixture, and stir them all around in the saucepan to form a paste.  If it’s too dry, dribble a bit more milk into the pan.  Thin the paste with the remainder of the milk, and heat over medium high until hot.

If you would like a drop of vanilla extract, go right ahead.  If you would like to whisk in some chocolate chips, more power to you.  But hot cocoa can be as simple as three ingredients.

Do you know how many ingredients are in a packet of Swiss Miss hot cocoa mix? 12.

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Whey, Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Partially Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Nonfat Dry Milk, Less than 2% of: Salt, Dipotassium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Artificial Flavor, Mono- and Diglycerides.

But forget about all of the multi-syllabic ingredients for a second. All hot cocoa powders rely on dry milk.  There is a reason that you generally don’t drink dry milk all the time.  It doesn’t quite taste like fluid milk.  I have always been perplexed by those who make major sacrifices in taste in favor of convenience.

Plus when you make hot cocoa from scratch, you can make it as fussy or as simple as you like.

Even a jug of conventional milk from the convenience store mixed with Hershey’s cocoa and sugar will be superior to what you get in packets.   Think about how delicious this treat would be with a rich, unhomogenized whole milk from a local dairy.  Or how much better it would taste with Callebaut or Droste cocoas.  If fair-trade or organic are important to you, those too are easy to make with something that only has three ingredients.

Luckily Young Master Fussy still has pretty simple tastes.  But I’m looking forward to seeing how he performs in a cocoa tasting sometime down the road.  As it turns out hot cocoa isn’t just a raking reward, it also makes a pretty good treat for shoveling out the driveway too.

For all that free labor I don’t mind standing at the stove for a few minutes whipping up an easy, delicious, and nutritious treat for the kids.

Hopefully you will try it too.  It really isn’t hard.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 24, 2010 9:38 am

    I have never made it from scratch, however I will only — ONLY — buy the cocoa that requires you to mix in real milk instead of that “just add hot water!” crap. Yuck.

  2. October 24, 2010 10:15 am

    You would think that making hot cocoa from scratch would be a simple thing everyone would know. Well, I’m embarrassed to admit I honestly never thought about it until reading this. Man, it’s amazing how knowledge like this gets lost in just a couple of decades of highly processed foods.

  3. Mama Ass permalink
    October 24, 2010 11:12 am

    I’ve long known how to make hot chocolate, but nobody I’ve made it for actually likes it. Maybe I doing it wrong, or maybe they are all flawed.

  4. October 24, 2010 7:22 pm

    Instead of small batches, try making up the sugar-in-cocoa syrup in volume and storing the excess in the refrigerator. It keeps for quite a while. Then, when the young hellions demand hot chocolate, you complain bitterly about the trouble involved while spooning a couple of teaspoons into hot or microwaved milk.

  5. mirdreams permalink
    October 26, 2010 11:55 am

    Love Otis’ suggestion for homemade “instant”. I wonder if you could freeze it so it would last even longer? I lack children but love hot chocolate

  6. November 9, 2010 10:12 pm

    Coming to this post late, but I figured I’d drop my two-cents in here! I was always a rather unconcerned drinker of hot chocolate, going for a rather un-fancy way of making it, until I started working at my current job.

    We will, at some point, be starting up the drinking chocolate shots soon (gelato is now gone for the season). These are possibly the most incandescent hot chocolate drink I’ve had, if do say so myself. I highly urge any hot chocolate lover to try it! The shots are intense and perfect on their own, but we also use it for hot chocolate that comes out really, really lovely. I’m not sure when we’ll definitely have it, but I would guess in the next two weeks or so. I’m trying to find a way to make it at home, but so far haven’t quite made it :(

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