Happy Hot Chocolate Month

By on February 2, 2018

Hot Chocolate Time

Hot Chocolate for Winter. Yes. Yum. Good and good for you.

Now that winter is full on us, its time to make yourself hot chocolate. My grandmother made it for me for an after school drink every day in cold weather. I still have her chocolate cups and once in awhile will drag them out for a moment with my grandmother.

Hot Chocolate is the simplest drink on the planet earth and the only variant is the chocolate. Yes, of course you can use all sorts of fancy chocolates, but, to my mind, the best and quickest is to use plain Hershey’s Cocoa.

Some prefer Dutch-process cocoa which is darker and has a punched up chocolate flavor. Dutch cocoa powder, also known as Dutch-processed cocoa, is made when chocolate liquor is pressed to remove three quarters of its cocoa butter. The remaining cocoa solids are processed to make fine unsweetened cocoa powder.
But to my mind, why mess with success? Sometimes the oldest most time-tested products are the best. To me that mean’s Hershey’s. Yes, I have Chatfield’s in my pantry, and have tried Valrhona, Guittard, and Ghiradelli.

Yes, they all have their distinct flavor properties, but I am sticking with my first choice, Hershey’s. You can make hot chocolate using any of these brands. Just go with the one you like.

Chocolate comes from the seeds of the cacao tree which originated in the tropical rainforests of South and Central America. Maya and Aztec people first utilized the seeds by pressing them into a spicy, frothy, bitter drink. In the 1500s, Spanish explorers brought the seeds back from their travels to Spain where chocolate drinks became a favorite of the rich and royal. About 100 years later, this delectable delicacy – which was expensive and labor intensive to produce – was introduced to the wealthy in other European nations.

It was the industrial revolution – and the invention of the cocoa press in 1828 – that helped bring chocolate to the general public. Less expensive production methods allowed chocolate to be mass-produced in a more affordable, solid form. Popularity soared even further when, in 1875, Nestlé’s Daniel Peter introduced condensed milk to the mix, creating creamy, smooth “milk chocolate.” By the early 1900’s chocolate was widely available to everyone.

Fast forward and I still believe the best chocolate product is plain, old fashioned hot cocoa. And you can make it in five minutes.

How do you make it? Just put equal amounts of cocoa and sugar in a saucepan – say a heaping tablespoon of each. Pinch of salt, then about ¼ cup water. Cook and stir until it is a thick syrup, no more than 2-3 minutes.

Now add a couple cups whole milk. Cook and stir until you can’t stand to wait another minute. Pour into cups and serve.
Please don’t put marshmallows in it. And certainly, no sprinkles. You could top it with unsweetened whipped cream. But keep it simple. Keep it pure. And it will do the same for you.

About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”