There's nothing I crave more than a steaming cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter's day. This is especially true during the holiday season, when cooking with whole milk and whipped cream seems de rigueur. Once November hits, I give up all hope for eating a low-fat diet until January. Between apple and pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving, eggnog in December, and all the cookies I'll eat at Christmas, what's the point in cutting back on calories?
But as long as we're indulging, why not throw in some adult libations as well? Of course there is the standard Peppermint Schnapps for a tried and true candy-cane flavored holiday aperitif, but what about some amaretto, Frangelico or whiskey to liven things up? Or, as Fred McMurray says in the classic Double Indemnity, "I wonder if a little rum would get this up on its feet?"
When making festive hot chocolate, think about your favorite holiday bonbons. Kirsch makes for a drink that mimics my favorite Christmas treat, chocolate-covered cherries, while Kahlua makes it taste like a coffee truffle. But it's your drink, so add in whatever liqueur or alcohol you'd like.
Some general guidelines when making hot chocolate are:
• It's best when made with old-school ingredients. Forget skim milk and packaged hot cocoa mixes (or even worse, a packet of Swiss Miss in a cup of hot water, God Forbid!). Real hot chocolate needs full fat milk, and if you're feeling really festive, some half and half or a bit of cream.
• Use dark chocolate. As you're adding in whole milk and cream, there's no need to use milk chocolate (even if that's your favorite) because the sugar and milk products you'll add will lighten and dilute anything you use.
• For a superior beverage use high-quality chocolate.