As a kid, hot chocolate was a big part of our lives, at least that is how I remember it. Sounds dramatic but I have distinct memories, of my childhood, where specific hot chocolate was an integral part.
When I went up to the mountains to cut firewood with my dad, we would stop either at the Sportsman Cafe off of Market Street in North Spokane, or we would stop by the Crossroads Cafe (I think that is what it was called) in Usk, just before we left the highway to go up the mountain up some obscure road.
When Father Joe took us poor kids from St. Pat’s up to 49 Degrees North for a ski lesson and run down the slopes in his old school bus he brought down from the boys ranch, my mom usually gave us just enough money to get one of their hot chocolates when we broke from the hill to eat our sack lunch. We were the kids who packed of course, because we didn’t have the money to buy food in the cafeteria, except just enough for a delicious hot chocolate.
All three of these seemed to be what I later discovered to be “whipped hot cocoa” from a fancy machine that Farmer Brothers (a big food service company that specialized in coffee, and spices and mixes) provided. I don’t know exactly how that machine worked but that whipped hot cocoa may have been the perfect blend of froth, cocoa, and cream.
At home, it seemed that we sometimes had Swiss Miss around but when we didn’t my mom would make a batch of “homemade.” I ain’t gonna lie, the homemade was VERY DARK and frankly kind of gross (especially with the whipped version still in my mind).
As an adult, we love hot cocoa as well, but it is usually relegated to Christmas time and camping. We crush hot cocoa when we are in the mountains, the kids especially. Nothing like waking up from the tent/truck/whatever in the AM to a cup of coffee or hot cocoa to get things going.
Several years ago I decided to try a few “internet” hot cocoa’s and Alton Brown’s seemed to be the closest to what we should expect. I even made a big batch and gave out as gifts one year. This is super delicious, easy to make, and stores indefinitely. I try and make it every year.
Oh and a couple of quick factoids:
- The Aztecs always added chiles to their chocolate. Traditionally, cocoa nibs were bashed along with maize (for the sweet) along with the chiles and then steeped with hot water. They then frothed it up with a Molinillo (wooden whisk essentially) and got their best soldiers ready to fight!
- The Irish soldiers (men that they are/were) historically drank hot chocolate before they too went to battle. Probably how they beat back the British!
Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
1 teaspoon fine-grain salt (Diamond Crystal Kosher works well here)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pinch (or more to taste) ground cayenne pepper – optional
Hot milk or water to serve.
Combine the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, milk powder, salt, cornstarch and cayenne in a large airtight container. Secure the lid and shake vigorously to combine, and remember to shake prior to every extraction.
To serve: Place 2 tablespoons of the mix in a mug and add about 2 fluid ounces hot water or milk. Stir to combine. Fill the mug with more hot water or milk and enjoy.