Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Recipe - Eggnog Hot Chocolate

Eggnog, another classic Christmas flavor! Do you like eggnog? I didn't when I was a kid, but that's probably because I was afraid to try it. I assumed with a name like eggnog, it was probably nothing but raw eggs and a little milk. Man, did I miss out! Ever since I tried it, I've pretty much become an eggnog addict.

I first tried a chocolate eggnog by simply adding chocolate syrup to a full glass. It's great like that! Naturally, at Christmas, I had to come up with a simple, delicious hot chocolate that lets the flavor of the eggnog really come through. I think I did pretty good, but you'll have to try it for yourself and let me know!

If you've never dared to try it, eggnog is really thick, incredibly creamy, and very sweet. It tastes of vanilla and spices, mainly nutmeg. Every glass is like its own little serving of dessert.

We only need a few things for our eggnog hot chocolate.


¾ cup eggnog, your favorite brand
½ cup milk (1% or 2%)
1 tbsp 99% (or 100%) chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract

99% chocolate (or 100%, also known as baking chocolate) is another thing that fooled me when I was a kid. The package says chocolate, and it sure looks like chocolate. But taste it. It's bitter and strong, very much like cocoa powder. It has no sugar or sweetener of any kind, so it's very unpleasant. In fact, it's pretty much cocoa mass, or cocoa liquor, which is simply the ground cacao beans. In this case, it's ground and refined just like regular eating chocolate, but no sweetener is ever added. It's different from cocoa powder in that the cocoa butter from the bean has been completely retained. In cocoa powder, the butter is pressed out.

The Scharffen Berger chocolate I'm using is 99% because they added a tiny bit of vanilla when they made it. Chop that chocolate up small, like we always do on this blog.

I'm using eggnog from Broguiere's Farm Fresh Dairy, which is a great local Southern California dairy. Their eggnog is thick, creamy, and amazing! So rich! And they still use glass bottles, which is great.

Ok, let's get busy! We're going to thin out the eggnog a tiny bit by adding milk to it. Grab a measuring cup that holds at least 2 cups and fill it up to ¾ with eggnog.

Then add milk until the level reaches 1¼.

Of course, you can adjust this ratio to your liking, but this is a good starting point.

Put into a saucepan on the stove top, set the heat to medium. Don't let it boil, but get it as close as you can. Once it's nice and hot, add in the chocolate and whisk until it's completely melted. Then turn off the heat and add the vanilla.

Traditionally, eggnog is served with grated nutmeg on top. Once our hot chocolate is in the mug, top it with whipped cream, then sprinkle nutmeg on top! Perfect! Or, even better, if you happen to be making your own fresh whipped cream, add nutmeg into the cream before you beat it.

If this isn't the perfect Christmas comforting drink, I don't know what is!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Recipe - Gingerbread Hot Chocolate

December, finally! It's the time of year when everyone pays attention to hot chocolate! While I continue on in my effort to make hot chocolate accepted as a year-round beverage, I can't help but get a little extra excited about this time of year. I've got some absolutely amazing hot chocolates lined up for the next few weeks, with flavors that are distinctly in the holiday spirit.

And the first one is gingerbread. Gingerbread houses, gingerbread man cookies... Mmm... Gingerbread just has that flavor that stirs up wonderful memories from when I was a kid.

Capturing the gingerbread flavor was an interesting and fun process. I researched what spices and flavors actually create that specific flavor of gingerbread cookies. Once I had it, finding the right combination with the right amount of chocolate took over five tries. My earliest attempts were far too strong!

The picture above shows the basics of the gingerbread flavor. Pumpkin pie spice and clove, along with molasses. Pumpkin pie spice is simply a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. That's a lot of spices for a cup of hot chocolate! You'll see, it's totally worth it.

All ingredients are as follows:

1½ cup 1% milk
2 tbsp chopped 85% dark chocolate
1 tbsp molasses
1½ tbsp brown sugar
¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
⅛ tsp ground clove

Alternatively, you could use 1 cup of half & half and ½ cup of milk for a very thick, creamy version of this recipe. I tend to like the thinner version of this one.

I'm using Lindt chocolate here. We need a strong, very dark chocolate to counter all the sweetness of the brown sugar and molasses. 85% works great, and I'm sure an 80% or 90% would be fine, as well. I'd steer clear of going under 75%, though. Or if you do, cut back on the amount of brown sugar proportionally. You'll have to do some taste tests to find the right balance.

Molasses is a very interesting product. I didn't know where it came from until I bought some to use in recipes for this blog and researched it. It is the by-product of processed sugar. When sugar cane is boiled to create crystals, those crystals become table sugar as we know it. What's left behind is molasses. Well, actually it's called cane molasses. Once you boil it two more times, continually refining more sugar out of it, you end up with blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses is actually good for you! It's filled with calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron, and one tablespoon provides 20% of your daily value of those nutrients. Awesome, huh?

On that same note, brown sugar is simply sugar that hasn't been refined enough to be table sugar. The brown color is a result of there still being a bit of molasses left in it. In this recipe, you could use regular sugar, but using brown sugar just enhances that molasses flavor a little.

Put the milk on the stove over medium heat. Once it's warm to the touch, add in the spices and the brown sugar. Let it get to just about boiling, then add in the chocolate. Once the chocolate is melted and incorporated, turn off the heat and add the molasses. Keep whisking it for a minute or so to be sure it's blended perfectly.

Pour and serve. Amazing, right? This is truly a great holiday hot chocolate. I'd advise against serving it with gingerbread cookies, as together, it could be a bit overwhelming. Try something milder, like speculoos or shortbread cookies.

And don't forget, December 13th is National Hot Cocoa Day! Celebrate it by not  dumping a packet of cocoa powder and powdered milk into a cup of hot water, but by making a real, delicious, perfect cup of real hot chocolate.