Friday 7 October 2011

A Cup of Cocoa

It’s 2:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep.  I know from past experience that there’s no point in lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, waiting to drift off again.  My body will go back to sleep when it’s ready to.  In the meantime, I’m sitting at my desk with a cup of cocoa, hoping that by the time I finish the first draft of this blog post I’ll be ready to drift off again.

"A cup of cocoa."

When I was a kid, the words “hot chocolate” didn’t even form a part of my vocabulary.  

Cocoa was the hot drink of choice at our house on cool weather days.  

Mom didn’t give us a lot of sweets so we didn’t drink cocoa every day, or even often.  Cocoa was a sometimes after school treat, or a warm-me-up after playing outside on a cold weekend day.  From time to time it came to the hockey rink with us.  Every once in a while, it was a pre-bedtime treat. 

I didn’t taste commercially packaged hot chocolate until I was in my teens.  When I did try it, I was terribly disappointed.  It tasted watery to me, and overly sweet.  It was one dimensional, lacking that slightly bitter edge that cocoa has.  To this day, cocoa remains my preference.

The kids in my life think cocoa is gross and that's fine with me.  It means I don’t have to share it with them!  :^)

Cocoa is made when chocolate liquor is pressed to remove three quarters its cocoa butter.  

Fry’s cocoa - the most commonly available cocoa in my part of Canada - is Dutch processed, meaning it has been washed with an alkaline solution to neutralize its natural acidity.  Dutch processed cocoas have a smoother taste that makes them an excellent choice for hot drinks. 

I’m never without a tin of cocoa in my pantry.  I use it to make my favourite chocolate cake and mocha cupcakes.  It can be combined with melted butter to make a substitute for unsweetened chocolate.  Still, I most often take the can down from the shelf in order to seek the comfort of a hot drink and a childhood memory.

Hot cocoa is simple to make and almost as fast as that one dimensional instant stuff:

I use one heaping teaspoon of cocoa and two heaping teaspoons of sugar for every twelve ounces of milk.  I make my cocoa with skim milk but, if you want a richer drink, use 2% milk, whole milk, or even a combination of milk and cream. 

You need to wet cocoa well in order to get it to dissolve properly.  You need to make a wet paste first.  Without it, the cocoa will clump and take endless whisking in order to make a smooth drink.  

To make the wet paste needed to start my drink, I put the cocoa and sugar in a small saucepan and then add a very small amount of milk—a tablespoon or two.  I stir the cocoa, sugar, and milk together vigourously until all the ingredients appear wet.  

Once I’ve wet the cocoa into a paste, I gradually whisk the rest of the milk into the pan.  

I heat my cocoa to just below the boiling point, and serve it right away.

There are lots of ways to dress up your cocoa.  You can flavour it with a little cinnamon…and chili if you’re feeling adventurous.  You can add almond, mint or orange extracts.  You can top your cocoa with marshmallows or whipped cream. 

All of these flavours and garnishes are a lovely treat from time to time, but mostly I prefer to drink my cocoa plain.  Its comforting warmth and milky goodness carry me back to childhood in a single sip.


Katrina Thennis said...

Love this! I was just thinking I want to make my own mix because I don't want all of the crap that's in the hot chocolate mix. Can't wait to try this tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Love it! I'm headed for the kitchen to build me a cup right now :)


Aunt B said...

So glad you liked it Laureen. :)

Aunt B said...

I'm glad you liked the post Katrina. I hope you enjoy your cocoa too!

ladyvolsfan1954 said...

I made my cup in the microwave too! I make my "paste" then stir in the rest of the milk and gradually heat it up. I just make sure the mugs big enough to allow for it to "grow" up the sides and not spill over in the microwave.

Aunt B said...

Good to know! Thanks for sharing that.