“Real” hot cocoa

I could pretend this is about recipes for children, but the truth is that I love hot cocoa and drink it almost daily, especially since I’m trying to at least sporadically get off of coffee. 

Powdered pre-made cocoa=bleech. In my obviously fairly biased opinion.  It’s too sweet, sorta fake, and I don’t really know what’s in there besides lots and lots of sugar and a comparatively small amount of actual chocolate.  Thing is, once I discovered how unbelievably easy it is to make “real” hot cocoa, I’ve effectively stopped drinking it except in a pinch at chorus rehearsals when I need a little sugar hit during a break. (okay, it’s not that bad. But it doesn’t compare to the real stuff.)

So: Unbelievably Easy Single Serving Hot Cocoa

  • heat 1 cup (8 oz) milk in the microwave; pyrex cup is good for this
  • while it’s heating, put 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder and 2 tsp sugar into a mug. (To taste–my kids like less cocoa and more sugar–yeah, big surprise!–but when I make it for myself I’ll often almost double the cocoa. Just for the antioxidants. ;-))
  • (optional) if desired, add a sprinkle of cinnamon, a few drops of vanilla, or half a teaspoon of instant coffee powder
  • when milk is hot, pour a little–just a couple tbs.–into the cocoa/sugar mixture; mix to form a paste. This will keep it from being lumpy. (Don’t even consider skipping this step; it’s key.)
  • Pour the rest of the milk in, stir, and enjoy.

Another way is to use hot tap water to make the paste, pour cold milk into the mug, and heat that in the microwave, but I’ve had too many experiences of the paste rising to the top and forming a big bubble that explodes all over the microwave.  The instant pre-made stuff is prone to that too, by the way.

Of course, you can also make your own hot chocolate mix using cocoa, powdered milk, and sugar–this would be in the “cooking in quantity” category, and on a green level (like the above) would have its own positive garbage-reduction impact; take a little reusable container to work to keep in the desk, keep some at home, etc. and you avoid those unrecyclable foil-filled envelopes.  (Do they still use those? You can tell it’s been a while since I’ve bought them…) Also, naturally, you have the ability to know exactly what’s going into your drink–organic milk, free trade organic cocoa, and such, if that’s your thing.  It certainly is mine. I haven’t done a free trade rant on this blog yet, but one of these days I’ll get to it; in the meantime www.thestoryofstuff.com talks about “externalizing costs” for the things we buy so cheaply, which is another way of saying that I get it cheap because someone else is shouldering the cost, whether it’s people or the planet itself…which is Not Really Fair, when you think of it, ya know?  Especially if there’s a bunch of corporate weenies between me and the cacao farmer who are getting filthy rich in the process.  (Okay, I guess that was a mini-rant.)

Where was I? Ah yes, instant hot cocoa recipe (and I have to say I’m fairly incensed at how many of the recipes for “make your own instant cocoa” one finds online have Coffee-Mate of all things as their main ingredient.)

This makes a great “teacher gift” for kids to give their teachers at the holidays, by the way.  Unless your kids go to the same school as mine, in which case I have dibs.

Instant Hot Cocoa Bulk Recipe (easy to remember)

  • 1 part unsweetened cocoa (fair trade and organic!?:-))
  • 2 parts sugar
  • 3 parts nonfat dry milk

Put 1/3 cup mix into a mug; pour hot water over it.

Could that be any easier? You don’t even exactly have to know what kind of measuring-thing you have, just as long as the ratios are pretty clear.  Obviously you can play around with the ratios a bit, depending on how chocolatey you want it, or how sweet (this recipe is pretty sweet–it’s my “kid” version).  And you can add cinnamon to the mix if you choose–maybe 2 tsp per cup of actual cocoa powder (reduce or increase as you wish).  If you want to get really schmantzy, store a couple of vanilla beans in your sugar for a month or two, and you have vanilla sugar, which is great for almost anything but really shines in hot cocoa.

Note: it’s really important to pour the water over the mix, not the mix into the hot water, especially with your own recipe.  Otherwise it lumps and gloops horribly.  Some recommend that you blend or food process (or sift or sieve, but who has time for that?) the mix after combining the ingredients, because the powdered milk doesn’t always dissolve well; I have never had any problem at all with that in hot water, but your mileage may vary.  Sometimes I put it in a ziploc bag and pound it a bit, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference in my final product.

Those of us watching our calorie counts–well, do the math. 1 cup of nonfat milk is what, 100 calories? 2 tsp sugar is 32, 1 tsp cocoa powder is something like 7.  Not bad for a fairly decadent-tasting chocolate fix.



p.s. unsweetened cocoa powder should be very firmly distinguished from what you can now sometimes find under the label of “drinking chocolate”–this stuff is much more expensive, takes much more per cup, has way more calories, and is absolutely to die for.  It’s sort of to ordinary hot cocoa what espresso is to coffee, and is usually drunk in espresso-like quantities.  At least in public. 🙂 I don’t generally go near it because it would quickly ruin me for the regular stuff, nor have I explored how to make it myself (same reason), but please feel free to explore your own personal nirvana.


Posted on July 16, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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