Do you feel really Canadian lately? We’ve had no choice but to drag out every shovel in the shed in the past week, and even non-fans are getting ready to tune in a game or two in this almost-lost season.
If these activities don’t send you to Tim’s for a hot chocolate, than you have to turn in your passport, but my plan today is to offer you some grand homemade alternatives.
I grew up making this to follow a hard day of sledding. It’s the easiest version you will ever find but velvety and quite delicious. Taste for sugar varies widely so I suggest you start with the smaller amount and stir in more as you like at the end. My fondest memories are invoked by a Carnation can, but if you aren’t fond of evaporated milk, then substitute fresh.
This makes enough for 2 mugfuls, topped with marshmallows if you are so inclined.
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 to 3 tbsp. sugar
1-1/2 cups evaporated milk (full or reduced fat)
1 cup boiling water
1 pinch salt (optional)
Stir cocoa and sugar together in a small pot. Whisk in just enough of the milk to make a thick but smooth paste. Whisk in remaining milk, boiling water and salt and bring nearly to a boil over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Serve at once.
Cinnamon and Spice Hot Chocolate
Sweet is good, but sweet with heat is sublime. If you don’t have ancho chili powder, use any on hand — the ancho does have a smoky finish that’s hard to beat, though. This amount serves 4 people.
4 cups milk (any fat level you want)
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder (to taste)
5 oz. finely chopped dark chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional)
Bring milk, cinnamon sticks and ancho chili powder nearly to a boil in a pot or in the microwave. Keep a close watch because it can boil over in a second. Pour immediately over the chopped chocolate and allow to sit for a couple of minutes. Stir gently until melted and smooth then add vanilla and almond extract. A dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top is a perfect way to serve.
Coconut Rum Hot Chocolate
Obviously for grown-ups only, this could rival cold beer as your beverage of choice for the next Saturday night game with friends. Something this rich and satisfying should be shared and it should serve 4, but I can’t make any promises once you taste it.
2 cups milk (any fat level you prefer)
2 cups unsweetened canned coconut milk
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups finely chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup amber or dark rum
Combine milk, coconut milk and cream in a heavy-bottomed pot and heat over low until it nears the boiling point. Add chocolate and continue to heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in rum.
Gingered Hot Chocolate
The ginger warms you to your toes while the chocolate perks you up. Try this as an accompaniment to simple fruit or plain biscuits to make an instant dessert. This will serve 2 to 4 people, depending on if it’s all alone or a go-with.
1 thumb-sized piece fresh gingerroot, peeled
3 cups milk (any fat level you prefer)
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Smack the ginger with the flat of a knife blade and place in a small pot. Add milk and bring nearly to a boil. Remove from heat and steep for an hour. Remove and discard the ginger. Whisk together brown sugar and cocoa and add enough of the ginger-infused milk to make a smooth paste. Bring remaining milk back up to a boil — but don’t really boil — and add sugar and cocoa paste. Whisk until smooth and serve.
Exotic Hot Chocolate
If you enjoy far-eastern spices then this last one is for you. There is no substitute for fresh cardamom pods in this drink, so either go get some or try one of the other recipes until you do find yourself in possession of the magical spice. To crack the pod, just pinch it in your hand until the soft outer husk breaks. If the seeds escape you will need to strain them out. This amount is good for 4 servings.
6 cardamom pods, cracked open but left whole
4 cups 2 per cent or whole milk
2 oz. good quality dark chocolate
6 or 7 tbsp. sugar, to taste
Add cardamom pods to milk and bring nearly to a boil over low heat. Remove from heat and allow to infuse for at least 20 minutes. Remove and discard pods. Bring milk back up to a boil and pour over chocolate. Allow to stand 2 minutes then stir until smooth. Add sugar to taste and continue stirring until completely dissolved. This is extra good — and extra exotic — if you float some lightly sweetened whipped cream, with half a spoonful of rose water beaten in, on top of each mug.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.