As we say hello to Autumn and evenings draw in, it’s the perfect time to think about hot chocolate. There’s nothing quite like it when there’s a bit of a chill in the air and you’re looking for something cosy, comforting and sweet to drink.
We’ve spent a little time experimenting with what makes a perfect hot chocolate. It’s been tough but here are our thoughts…
Whilst many of us might reminisce fondly of Cadbury’s drinking chocolate, Jacques Torres, Master Chocolatier, Pastry Chef and ‘Mr Chocolate’ is pretty unequivocal:
“You cannot make good hot chocolate if you don’t start with good chocolate”
Whilst you might think that turning it into hot chocolate would be a waste of quality chocolate, adding warm milk to chocolate actually means that a chocolate’s unique flavours come through even more – so it’s worth being a bit choosy over your ingredients.
If you’re going to use powder for your drink, try to find one that uses chocolate, rather than cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is the waste ingredient from the chocolate manufacturing process and is less flavourful than real chocolate.
Alternatively, you could use flakes, beads or even chunks of chocolate. Whilst these take a little longer to melt it means you’ll have a much wider choice of chocolates to use, and these tend to give a richer drink.
Whether you choose milk or dark chocolate is down to personal taste. We’ve been trying a few different ingredients and rather like these:
- Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate: Chocolate snobs might look down their nose. It is very sweet, but it’s also full of childhood memories!
- Prestat Velvety Milk Hot Chocolate Flakes: Nice and creamy, and with 33% cacao still pretty smooth
- Hans Sloane Milk Drinking Chocolate: Award-winning chocolate beads that give an intense flavour – without bitterness
- Charbonnel and Walker ‘The Chocolate Drink’: Flakes of 51% cacao that create a rich, slightly vanilla, and very tasty, drink (comes in a nice tin too!).
- Hasslachers Hot Drinking Chocolate: For those that like a bit more bite, these gourmet 100% cacao chocolate discs give an amazing rich dark flavour, but most people will want some added sugar to avoid it being overly bitter.
Whilst it’s tempting to try and avoid some calories, we don’t believe there’s room for cutting corners when it comes to hot chocolate – skimmed or semi-skimmed milk just doesn’t taste right. Go the whole hog and use full fat milk.
In fact, if you’re in the mood for extra luxury using a 5:1 ratio of milk to single cream, it’s the perfect partner to a darker chocolate.
There’s endless ways to enhance hot chocolate from a hint of spice to a splash of booze. Here are a few ideas:
Marshmallows: A hot chocolate staple! Marshmallows add a little texture, sweetness and vanilla flavour. Whether you leave them to melt or eat them straight away is a personal choice
Alcohol: If you want to add to the warming effect, a splash of dark or spiced rum, brandy or Grand Marnier will give you a rosy glow
Sugar: If your chocolate’s on the bitter side (or you just have a sweet tooth) a spoonful of brown sugar works a treat and adds a more caramel flavour than regular white sugar.
Spice: Nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, salt and pepper are all recommended by various hot chocolate connoisseurs. Experiment to see what suits your taste, but we did find that a small pinch of sea salt gave a bit of a lift – particularly with the darker chocolate
Chilli: Used to flavour chocolate since Mayan times. If you like a bit of heat, add a chilli to infuse as you heat your milk
Extra Cream: Adding cold whipped cream to the hot chocolate really tops off the luxury!
Heat up your milk slowly (whether on a campfire or hob) stirring frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn. Try not to boil the milk to avoid impairing the flavour (or, even worse, burning the chocolate).
If you’ve got a whisk or frother to hand, whisking the milk up adds a lovely velvety texture.
Add your preferred chocolate to your mug (it’s hard to add ‘too much’, so better to be safe than sorry!) and mix in a little bit of hot milk, stirring until you’ve got a smooth paste.
Top up with more milk and finish off with the extras that take your fancy: we vote for a small pinch of sea salt, whipped cream and marshmallows. Then sit back and enjoy.
What do you think makes a perfect hot chocolate? Let us know
It might not surprise you to learn that we’re convinced hot chocolate tastes best when enjoyed in the open air, wrapped up in a cosy Welsh blanket in front of a glowing camp fire.
Book one of our gorgeous domes and try for yourself!