I have decided that January is for drinking hot chocolate. I don't even love hot chocolate. But because it's January and I might have the januaries and it's cold and I would like to be a hermit, January has turned into the month of hot chocolate drinking. How many times can I fit January into a sentence? Ok, no, but really, for whatever reason, January just feels like a good time to be on a hot chocolate kick.
Embarrassingly enough, up until VERY recently, my hot chocolate experience had basically consisted of some variation on a packet of Swiss Miss stirred into hot water. Totally not bashing on Swiss Miss. That stuff is good. I keep some in my desk at work for hot chocolate-y emergencies.
But, I'm here to inform you that there is another world of hot chocolate amazingness: you can make your own hot cocoa mix. And it is SUPER easy. And it makes your hot chocolate experience wayyyy better. I'm sure at least three-quarters of you are like "DUHHHH, you idiot." But for the other quarter of you who are like "WHAAAT?!"....join me in celebration, won't you?
Making your own hot chocolate mix is super easy. Well, not as easy as tearing open a packet of pre-made mix, but hey, at least you know whats in it if you're the one making it yourself. And it's way easier to fancy up homemade cocoa with extracts, spices, and/or fancy varieties of marshmallows and whipped cream. This recipe for cocoa mix is a really amazing starting point. It's intensely chocolate-y without being very sweet. If you need it to be sweeter, you can always add a little more sugar. And it works with other milk varieties, too (rice, almond, coconut, etc).
For this version, I decided to dress it up with kirsch-infused marshmallows with a cherry jam swirl, and added a little whipped cream topped with chocolate shavings. Basically, Black Forest Cake in a cup! You'll find recipes for the mix, the marshmallows, and the assembly below!
Hot Chocolate Mix
adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 ounces (85 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cocoa powder, any kind you like
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or the seeds from a tiny segment of fresh vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 to 2 TB espresso powder (optional)
- Throw all ingredients into your food processor or blender and blitz til powdery. Store in an airtight container.
- To make cocoa, heat 8oz of milk in a small saucepan over low heat, until it barely simmers. Add 3 TB of cocoa mix, and whisk until thoroughly combined, and heat for another minute or two.
- Pour into mug, dress up, and enjoy!
1 cup powdered sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites (you can use meringue powder for that -- read the instructions on your container to find out the right proportions per egg white)
1/2 TB vanilla extract
1 TB kirsch (or cherry flavoring/extract)
1/2 cup cherry jam (optional)
2 TB water
- Oil bottom and sides of a 13x9 rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with powdered sugar.
- In bowl of a standing electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand for 10 minutes to soften.
- This part is optional, but if you want cherry jam swirled into your mallows, cook cherry jam in a small saucepan over low heat with 2 TB water until thinned. Strain it through a sieve -- you don't want big chunks of cherry in there (if your jam was chunky). It will compromise the structural integrity of your marshmallows. Set jam aside until later.
- In a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved.
- Increase heat to medium-high and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F. Do not walk away. Burnt sugar is a nightmare, and this will happen faster than you think.
- Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture into stand mixer bowl over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
- With standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume.
- Meanwhile, in a separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks.
- Beat whites, kirsch and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined.
- Pour mixture into baking pan.
- Dot as much of your cherry jam around the top of the marshmallow mixture, and swirl by repeatedly dragging a knife through the marshmallow mixture.
- Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top.
- Set aside until marshmallows are set (4 hours or more -- overnight is fine too!) If i'm leaving them overnight, I usually cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap.
- Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board.
- Trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into desired shapes/sizes.
- Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.
Black Forest Hot Chocolate
- Prepare as many mugs of hot chocolate as you'd like with the mix referenced above.
- Add a cherry marshmallow (or two or three!) to your mug.
- Add lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings (or mini chocolate chips!)