Many nights, after the kids are tucked away in bed, you’ll hear this conversation in our home:
Me: Let us sit (collapse) on the couch and watch (Downton Abby/30 Rock/ThatNetflixMovie)! And (added smile and knowing look) won’t you pretty please make your special hot cocoa that I love so much?
Husband: But of course my love.
(isn’t he great?)
Cooks Illustrated Hot Cocoa
Serves 4 in small mugs
Why This Recipe Works
Our ideal hot cocoa recipe would give us serious chocolate flavor and a rich, satisfying consistency. We found that 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder sweetened with 1 tablespoon of sugar added enough chocolate flavor to our hot cocoa recipe without being overpowering. Many recipes recommend mixing cocoa powder and sugar with a little water before adding the milk, and we found this to be worthwhile. Water has the effect of releasing the cocoa powder’s fruit, chocolate, and coffee flavor nuances. We also discovered that heating the mixture of cocoa powder, sugar, and water for two minutes before adding milk further deepens the flavor.
If you want to increase or decrease this recipe for hot cocoa, the key ratio to remember is one and one-half tablespoons of cocoa and one heaping tablespoon of sugar per cup of liquid. If you have whole milk on hand rather than low-fat, go ahead and use it, omitting the half-and-half.
6 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder, measured by dip-and-sweep
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch table salt
3 cups low-fat milk (1 or 2 percent)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup half-and-half
1. In heavy 2-quart saucepan, whisk together cocoa, sugar, salt, and water over low heat until smooth. Simmer, whisking continuously, for 2 minutes, making sure whisk gets into the edges of pan.
2. Add milk, increase heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally with whisk, until steam rises from surface and tiny bubbles form around edge, 12 to 15 minutes. Do not boil.
3. Add vanilla and half-and-half. For foamy cocoa, beat hot cocoa with hand mixer or transfer to blender and blend until foamy. Divide between four mugs, top with whipped cream or marshmallows if desired, and serve immediately.