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.
And speaking of good quality dark chocolate, we have some amazing local hot chocolate and cocoa choices, including:
• Ricchiuti -- Dark Hot Chocolate Pistoles
• TCHO -- Hot and Cold Drinking Chocolate
So now that it's December, it's time to curl up in a chair with a steamy cup of spiked hot chocolate. What will you add to your drink?
Spiked Hot Chocolate
Makes: 2 servings
2 1/2 cups whole milk (or 1/2 whole milk and 1/2 half and half for a really rich beverage)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or 1/2 cup your favorite chopped chocolate
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 oz liqueur or whiskey
1. Chop chocolate into small pieces.
2. Heat milk in a sauce pan on medium-low heat, being sure not to let it boil over.
3. There are two ways to melt the chocolate:
- Place the chocolate pieces in a metal bowl that will fit securely over your sauce pan. Reduce the heat for the milk to a low simmer and then place the bowl on top of the pan. Stir until the chocolate is melted.
- Place chocolate pieces in a microwavable bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir chocolate to help distribute the heat. If chocolate has not thoroughly melted, heat for another 20 seconds and repeat until chocolate is melted through.
4. Add chocolate to the heated milk along with the sugar and vanilla extract and stir thoroughly to incorporate everything together. I like to use a whisk, which creates some froth.
5 Top with whipped cream.