Hot Chocolate

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Subject: Zen and the Art of Hot Chocolate
Date: Friday, August 27, 1993 16:07:01 MDT


Hi Tanya,

Quite a while ago I promised to send you the full description of how I make hot chocolate. First of all, the ritual of making it is 50% of the enjoyment. It is somewhat like the Japanese tea ceremony, I suppose.

It should never be made in broad daylight. A cold dark winter night is best.

This recipe is for a huge mug. Mine is a heavy ceramic mug (almost a stein) about 14 oz. capacity, black, with white orcas frolicing on it.

Start by running the hot water tap into and around the outside of the mug for 10 - 20 seconds, to preheat the mug, rather like scalding a teapot. Place the mug upside-down and at about a 45 degree angle, on a dish rack so that excess water drains out nicely, especially from the bottom of the inside of the mug.

Fill a teakettle with just enough water to be able to fill the mug or maybe a bit more for insurance, and set it on the stove at high heat or plug the kettle in, or whatever.

Select a spoon that has a narrow handle near the bowl of the spoon, and it is best if it has no ornamentation but is perfectly smooth. The pattern I use is called "Avante". You may optionally run it under the hot water to preheat it as well, but be sure to dry it off thoroughly with a tea towel (or your tee shirt, if it's clean and nobody's looking).

Take the mug and spoon and put one scant teaspoon of granulated sugar in the mug. Shake the dry sugar around so that it sticks to any residual water in the bottom of the mug. This prevents other ingredients from forming sticky lumps in the bottom.

Add two heaping spoonfuls of hot chocolate mix. The best is Cadbury's regular mix. Don't use any with marshmallow flavor or anything like that. I have had some luck with Carnation "Rich Chocolate Flavor" brand, with the Norman Rockwell-type scene on the can, but it just isn't the same.

Add two heaping spoonfulls of Fry's cocoa. I've tried Hershy's cocoa, but it leaves a gritty residue and doesn't mix as well as Fry's - odd, because Hershy makes the best chocolate syrup for dessert topping.

Add three more of hot chocolate mix. Now there's a layer of cocoa between two layers of mix.

Toss in an eighth of a teaspoon of instant coffee powder. Decaf or regular doesn't matter.

If you don't have any "half&half" (or "cereal cream", or "coffee cream") throw in a spoonfull of CoffeeMate - the exact amount depends on whether you have skim milk or whole milk, or whatever percentage in between. The idea is to give at least the illusion of a high butterfat content.

Gently blend the dry ingredients. If the cocoa is initially sandwiched between two layers of mix, then it will not throw out a cloud of dry cocoa powder, making a mess on the counter. The blending brings the individual particles of cocoa into contact with the chemical additives in the commercial mix that make it easy to stir in liquids. (What is that, carrageenan?)

Add the cream or milk. Whipping cream (straight from the carton - not whipped) is pretty good because of the high butterfat content. Next best is Half&half or cereal cream. Third best is straight milk plus CoffeeMate. Add just enough liquid such that it turns the mixture into a smooth thick syrup, much like ice cream topping, but thicker than molasses. (Actually, I have used this for ice cream topping, but leave out the Hot Chocolate mix, and increase the sugar.) I can't specify how much liquid - maybe a few tablespoons? If you use whipping cream, throw in a bit of hot water, or else you have to use too much cream to get the right consistency, and it ends up in a big lump on the end of your spoon.

When stirring the milk/cream in, hold the mug in your left hand, at a 45 degree angle, turning it slowly with your fingertips, while you stir the mixture with the spoon in your right hand. The spoon should both scrape the sides and bottom of the mug, as well as mash any remaining lumps between the bottom of the bowl of the spoon and the side of the cup - much like using a morter and pestle. Don't rotate the spoon, just the mug. It helps to have an overhead light to look into the mug for any remaining lumps.

By the time you get a smooth dark blend, the kettle should be boiling. Hold the spoon at an angle halfway out of the mug and pour in the hot water so that it hits the bowl of the spoon first - this will clean off most of the sticky chocolate mess from the spoon. Only fill it up to two thirds - this will give you some "headroom" so that you can stir the whole works rather vigourously, without spilling over the side. If you blended the milk in properly, it should take very little time to stir it all up.

Now add the last inch or so of hot water, right up to the brim. The top half inch will be a wonderful foam, produced partly by the folding and blending procedure. don't drink any, yet.

Take the mug, spoon and a potholder and place them on small table next to your comfiest easychair. Don't do this over a carpet, because it's really hard to clean up any spills. The potholder serves as an oversize absorbent coaster, and insulates the bottom of the mug from the "heatsink" effect of the table. Turn on the reading light and find the page where you left off reading your current trashy novel. I prefer the works of Stephen King.

Place the book open, face down, on your lap. Pick up the mug and spoon, lift the spoon out of the mug, dragging it across the lip of the mug as you go, and then lick the foam off the spoon handle so that it doesn't get your fingers sticky later. This is why you selected a smooth-handled spoon - it's easier to clean. Put the spoon down on one side of the potholder.

Now - slurp some of the foam off the top, and take a sip. Start reading and take a sip about four times per page, giving an occasional stir every couple of pages. You may also optionally put the potholder on your knee, and rest the mug on it, allowing the heat to pass through it to your leg, on an especially cold night.

You may occasionally need to stir it again. You may also need to pop it into a microwave, towards the end, so don't use any mug with metallic gold trim.

That's it. When finished for the night, remember to leave the mug with the spoon in the sink, filled with water to make it easier to clean next day.