By Perry Smith
Signal Managing Editor
Well, despite some of our best intentions and hard work, 2020 has proven itself on numerous occasions to not be the year we had hoped, thought or even planned for — but luckily, there’s no Public Health precautions for some forms of holiday cheer.
One thing that can’t be taken away from us while we bear through the COVID-19 pandemic and the cold weather also descending upon us with winter approaching is hot chocolate.
Whether you’re a classic enthusiast who cooks your cocoa powder over the stove, you prefer the melted-chocolate-bar approach or a foodie who’s up on the latest trends — who’s already tried a “hot chocolate bomb” — this is the time of year to cuddle up to your loved one and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate by the fire, the TV or the laptop.
For the uninitiated, the hot chocolate bomb is the latest in hipster foodie tech, involving a ball of chocolate encasing either traditional cocoa powder or a mix inside, which you can drop into a cup of steaming milk. (They’re a bit difficult to make, but Costco sells a box of 16 that also has “exploding” marshmallows for around $20.)
Here are a few fun, simple recipes with a few suggestions from staff a and the community on one of the most popular holiday refreshments:
Mexican Hot Chocolate
Behold, the Lujan family Mexican Hot Chocolate recipe, shared by Carrie Lujan, communications manager for the city of Santa Clarita:
“My husband’s grandmother made this for me the first time, and now it is a holiday staple,” Lujan said. “The cinnamon adds a little kick and spice to a traditional hot cocoa, as does the chili powder!”
And it is not done until you add the whip cream and marshmallows, she noted.
2 (3.5oz) bars good quality bittersweet chocolate (I use Lindt.)
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup water
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp chili powder (optional)
1/2 Tbsp light brown sugar (optional)
pinch of nutmeg
Whipped cream to serve
Marshmallows — always marshmallows!
Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth issued a statement in response to the use of that last ingredient that may well, by his own admission, create a holiday controversy for the highest seat of municipal power: “I prefer a thicker hot chocolate, so my ratio of milk/chocolate is heavier on the chocolate,” Smyth said, in a statement released exclusively to The Signal. “The may create some controversy, but I am very ‘anti-marshmallow’ in my hot chocolate.”
Heter Homemade Hot Chocolate
Brendie Heter, who lives with her family in Castaic, shared this tasty recipe that she knows, from experience, is a crowd-pleaser with everyone from small kids to adults:
(makes 4-5 adult cups or 3-5 smaller cups for kids)
Ingredients (for 4 adults)
4 cups milk (any percentage)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place milk, cocoa powder and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium/medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until warm. DO NOT LET IT BOIL. Add chocolate chips and whisk constantly until the chocolate chips melt and distribute evenly into the milk. Whisk in vanilla extract, serve immediately.
Top with whipped cream. Add marshmallows and festive sprinkles if you’re fun and like to see children smile.
If making for children and you need smaller servings … use the ingredient list below. This makes 3-4 smaller kid cups. (Warning: You know someone will spill their entire cup … so save some in the pot for refills.)
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
(Pro tip: If I have heavy whipping cream, I will add some to make it creamier.)
Two members of The Santa Clarita Valley Signal staff went overseas for their culinary cocoa creations:
British ‘Drinking Chocolate’
When Signal reporter Emily Alvarenga lived in England, she claims to have made a startling discovery — “how much better their chocolate is than ours — no joke,” she said.
“They have Cadbury Drinking Chocolate. Yes, I said ‘drinking chocolate.’ It’s amazing. You can buy a can of it on Amazon … $12, and all you do is swirl it into hot milk. It’s to die for.”
Nutella Your Secret Ingredient
Similarly, Signal photographer Bobby Block had a creative hazelnut-based recipe with an additive that hails from Italy — Nutella.
“My go-to hot chocolate variant is made with Nutella,” he said.
Heat up about 4 cups of milk in a saucepan and stir in roughly 1 cup of Nutella until the mixture becomes homogenous … and that’s it.
You can serve as is or, if you want to transform this cold weather classic into a classy Christmas cocktail, simply add about an ounce of peppermint schnapps per serving.
Top with whipped cream or marshmallows and, if a more festive presentation is desired, garnish with either cocoa powder, chocolate shavings, nutmeg or ground hazelnuts.