How to make the perfect cup of hot chocolate
On a cold day, whether you’re inside or out, nothing warms the cockles like a sweet and creamy cup of hot chocolate. These days hot chocolate comes in all shapes and sizes from hot chocolate bombs (or hot chocolate bombes – we’re not sure what the difference is?!) to white hot chocolate, vegan hot chocolate to hot chocolate stirrers and hot chocolate spoons, hot chocolate sachets and laced Bailey’s hot chocolate. Variations and recipes differ wildly and making a good ole mug of hot chocolate has never been easier.
How to make hot chocolate is a hotly contentious subject amongst my family, with the calorie counters saying a hot chocolate sachet works fine, whilst the sweet-toothed fiends amongst us swear by a hot chocolate velvetiser.
This got us thinking, what makes the ABSOLUTE BEST hot chocolate ever?
The history of hot chocolate
There is evidence that early chocolate drinks were drunk by the Aztec Mayans as early as 500 BC, however they were nothing like the hot, sweet drink we know and love today. The Mayans ground the cocoa beans into a paste and mixed it with other ingredients, most notably chilli, to create a bitter cold drink that sounds like it was most definitely an acquired taste. Mexico had yet to import sugar, so vanilla was later used to flavour the chocolate drink. It is difficult to pinpoint when cold chocolate became hot chocolate, but chocolate didn’t reach the UK until Christopher Columbus’s fourth expedition around 1500.
Different types of hot chocolate
Thank goodness we moved on from adding cornmeal and chilli to our chocolate beverages. These days each country has their own special way of making hot chocolate with Europeans generally preferring a richer, thicker hot chocolate and Americans tending towards thinner chocolate drinks. Your hot chocolate station at home or at work will differ depending on your taste and preferred hot chocolate recipe, how you experienced hot chocolate as a child and your lifestyle.
Let’s take a look at some different ways of making hot chocolate.
French hot chocolate is like nothing else in the world. Rich, decadent flaked hot chocolate is melted into hot creamy milk slowly and stirred lovingly until the chocolate melts creating a thick, luxurious hot chocolate experience. There is almost as much chocolate as milk here.
There is nothing better than sipping a chocolat chaud in Paris on a crisp, cool day alongside a croissant or enjoying a chocolat chaud with mountain views on the pistes in the French Alps. This decadent French hot chocolate is super thick, super rich and sweetened to taste. Check out YouTube for videos on how to make chocolat chaud at home.
Machine-made Hot Chocolate
You may have heard the term hot chocolate Velvetiser™. The Velvetiser is the brainchild of Hotel Chocolat and Dualit and is a purpose-build hot chocolate machine which gently heats, stirs and whips your hot chocolate into existence in around 2.5 minutes. Other hot chocolate maker options are available, and many are cheaper, but essentially you use dairy or plant-based milk and hot chocolate flakes to make an exceptionally velvety hot chocolate quickly and easily at home. This is not as rich as chocolat chaud as less chocolate is used but is smooth and delightful and an excellent alternative. And really, you can add as much chocolate as you want, go nuts.
Fast Hot Chocolate
The quickest way to make hot chocolate is using hot chocolate sachets. These are usually mixed with hot milk and sweetened with sugar, although some brands do include sugar already so do check the packet ingredients. Instant hot chocolate is a wonderful alternative hot beverage for those who don’t like tea and coffee (say what?!) and is great to use in the home or the office for a hot sweet drink on the go. Make your hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream for extra decadence, use water instead of milk to keep your hot chocolate low in calories, you can even use a hot chocolate machine with instant hot chocolate if you don’t have any flaked hot chocolate.
Low Calorie Hot Chocolate
Just because you’re limiting your calories doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a delicious cup of hot chocolate. Buying a high-quality hot chocolate (such as Penningtons Hot Chocolate) will make all the difference when making your hot chocolate with hot water instead of milk. If you can’t bear the thought of skipping creamy milk, use half and half water and milk, or opt for a skimmed or low-fat milk instead. Swap sugar for sweeteners and away you go. No need to deny yourself a cosy cup.
Plant-based Hot Chocolate
With more people turning to a plant-based diet, veganism or simply trying to reduce their meat and dairy intake, swapping cow’s milk for goat’s milk, oat milk, almond milk or any of those other dairy-free milk alternatives has become more popular. We have done some experimenting and can confirm that actually oat milk and almond milk especially, make a delicious cup of hot chocolate. The taste is nuttier and is slightly more rich than hot chocolate made with cow’s milk, but the good news is, vegan hot chocolate is delicious!
White Hot Chocolate
So dark chocolate and milk chocolate contain cocoa powder in addition to cocoa butter. White chocolate is made without the cocoa powder but contains milk like milk chocolate. White chocolate tends to be sweeter and the same can be said of white hot chocolate. You can make this rich and creamy hot beverage with white chocolate flakes and milk or instant white hot chocolate powder, just as you would with traditional hot chocolate.
Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate
We’ve included this in here as apparently, it’s a popular way of making hot chocolate but let’s be honest, why would you wait an hour for a hot chocolate you can make in minutes?! Slow cooker hot chocolate requires more time, space and effort (washing up!) than necessary, and in our experience everything that you make in a slow cooker tastes the same. Don’t let your bean chilli or beef casserole taint your hot chocolate.
Accessorising Your Hot Chocolate
Coffee baristas up and down the high street offer their own unique twists on hot chocolates, with some having more success that others. Pumpkin spiced hot chocolate anyone? No thanks!
However, Christmas hot chocolate spiced with cinnamon or white hot chocolate flavoured with vanilla are hot chocolate variations we’re here for.
Experiment at home with spices, go Mayan and add chilli (be careful! Less is more), froth your milk for a cappuccino-esque take on a hot chocolate or combine it with coffee and make yours a mocha.
We all have our own individual tastes and preferences. What is perfection for you might not be for someone else, so conclusively declaring that one hot chocolate is better than others is hugely subjective.
… Saying that, if we had a £100 to spare, we’d be wishing for a Velvetiser from Father Christmas this year!