Growing up, I thought the only way to make hot chocolate was to pull a packet out of the box, add hot water (or milk), and stir. Making it “gourmet” meant adding marshmallows—the large ones, since my mom was too cheap to splurge on the mini kind. I only found out hot chocolate could be made another way by accident. After making myself sick gorging on Halloween candy, I decided to try another method of ingesting my bounty, so I melted a cut-up Hershey bar in a small pot and when things started looking sticky, I added milk. The result, to my astonishment, was hot chocolate! These days, everyone’s gone cuckoo over fancy versions of the drink, but the most satisfying stuff is the kind you make fresh at home. And it’s beyond easy to whip it up; all the below recipes should take less than 10 minutes, and serve two or three chocolate lovers. And feel free to substitute your favorite non-dairy milk for cow’s milk in these recipes.

To make a classic cup of hot cocoa, mix a half coffee cup of cocoa powder with three heaping plops of sugar in a saucepan. Stir in a coffee cup of hot water, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and stir for a few minutes. Add three coffee cups of hot milk and stir over a low flame for another minute. Take it off the stove.

If you’re a fan of the superthick hot chocolate that everybody’s into nowadays, add a pinch of cornstarch to your cocoa powder in the above recipe. Also, swap out one of your coffee cups of regular milk for a coffee cup of evaporated milk. Adjust the liquid and powder ratios to suit your taste and thickness preferences.

If you don’t have any powder on hand, try making an old-school cup of cocoa from a chocolate bar. Just chop up a bar of your favorite chocolate and throw the chunks in a pot. Add enough milk to just cover the pieces, and put them on low heat, stirring often. When the chocolate is all melted and mixed in (this should take a few minutes), you’re done!

Once you’ve mastered your favorite basic style of hot chocolate, you’re free to experiment with some variations:

 

  • Top it with mini marshmallows, whipped cream, crushed mint candies, or even chocolate shavings.
  • Add a drizzle of vanilla or peppermint extract to make things aromatic.
  • Give it a Latin twist by adding a pinch of cinnamon and chili powder.
  • Turn it into a cafĂ©-mocha-type drink by adding a plop of instant coffee and stirring until it’s mixed.
  • Be a fancy-pants by throwing in a pinch of sea salt or a bit of orange peel
  • If it’s a chilly night, and you want to heat things up, add a shot of liquor: good options include Grand Marnier, cognac, amaretto, Frangelico, whiskey, or rum.

 

Recipe By Chef Rossi

  This article first appeared inour Dec/Jan print edition of BUST Magazine.

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