There’s a phenomenon in British weather that I like to call “the swirly”, where a storm will come in over the Atlantic, hang out for a few days, shimmy over to France, bounce off of Norway, and come back for round two a couple days later.
I now get why small talk about the weather is a thing here. In Chicago, as unpleasant as it might get, at least you can look at Colorado and brace yourself for tomorrow. And it’s not gonna then rebound off of Pittsburgh and come back as its own sequel.
This week’s dunk in the metaphorical weather toilet MIGHT just bring us snow tomorrow, but today it’s just this:
That’s why my work-from-home setup looks like this:
This is the best hot chocolate I know how to make. Believe me when I tell you you don’t need a trendy hot chocolate bomb or a flashy pre-made mix.
This is better.
The first game-changer is Marshmallow Fluff.
Fluff melted together with chocolate will form a thick and frightening goo that seems like it’s going to burn (and, uh, it is, so watch it). But once you whisk in your milk, There Is No Gross Sludge At The Bottom of Your Cup.
The Fluff gives you an even, mellow sweetness with no hint of graininess, binding to the chocolate and stopping it from separating and collecting at the bottom of the mug.
Using marshmallow fluff (or just marshmallows) also slightly thickens the cocoa, giving it an unctuous, tongue-coating, pillowy yumness that makes you feel like you’re drinking the kind of cocoa you see in Charlie Brown cartoons or Miyazaki movies. It’s fantasy cocoa.
The second game-changer is the Bourbon.
I’m not a big drinker. I’m a “will fall asleep immediately after one glass of white wine” drinker. But adding just a splash of bourbon makes the chocolate CHOCOLATIER in a deep and satisfying way. Even if you’re not a regular drinker, adding in just a half a tablespoon will take this cocoa from Henry Cavill in The Count of Monte Cristo to Henry Cavill in Superman That One Time They Let Him Have a Beard.
Of course, both Cavills are good. If you don’t drink, this is still absolutely lovely with no alcohol at all.
But, if you are going to spike it, sorry not sorry to Kahlua drinkers, Bailey’s enthusiasts, and Schnapps stans: bourbon is better. Just give it a shot.
Finally, make sure not to skip the pinch of salt and the dash of vanilla. The vanilla will take the edge off the harshness of the dark chocolate, and the salt cuts the sweetness and makes everything sing.
This hot chocolate is the best because it has all of my best secrets. This is the hot chocolate you make when you really want to pull out all the stops to impress someone, and you don’t need expensive pre-made gimmicks to do it. Besides, sometimes that someone is yourself, staring down the barrel of the tenth straight month of a worldwide pandemic.
This is the rainy day you’ve been saving up for. Treat yourself.
The Best Hot Chocolate I Know How To Make
(Serves 2 – I’m serious, it’s pretty rich. You can always heat it up again later if you get overwhelmed.)
- 3.5 oz bittersweet chocolate
- I’d say 60- 70% is the sweet spot here. Higher than that and it’ll start tasting Extremely Grown-Up and Not Fun, like something they’d serve in a tiny cup at a fancy bistro, or as a punishment.
- If you use semi-sweet chocolate it’s going to be too sweet for marshmallows, but you could probably melt less semisweet chocolate with half the marshmallows, use more milk, and then add in unsweetened cocoa to taste. I don’t know. Swim at your own risk.
- Also 3.5 oz is an extremely annoying amount because most bittersweet chocolate here comes in 4oz bars. If that’s the case for you just use the whole bar and bump the milk up a little, the extra .5 oz isn’t going to kill you.
- 4 tbsp Marshmallow Fluff
- I usually have a tub of Fluff that I keep exclusively for this recipe (and fluffernutters), but right now all I have is actual marshmallows. Luckily the only difference between those two is, uh, basically nothing except you can’t measure marshmallows in tablespoons.
- They’re about as big as tablespoons, though, so I just started with 4 marshmallows, which didn’t actually turn out to be enough, so I used like 6.
- You can’t un-marshmallow this cocoa, so start carefully. The important thing is to melt the chocolate with SOME amount of marshmallow to get it to bind together, but you can always melt more marshmallows into the cocoa to taste after you’ve added the milk.
- 2 cups of milk.
- I usually just pick the mugs I’ll be serving in and measure the milk in those.
- Does it go without saying that I always use whole milk? I think so. But I’m also not going to tell you to go out and buy whole milk just for this recipe. Use the milk you like. Use the milk that’s in your fridge. Use the milk that’s in your heart.
- I’ve never tried it with a non-dairy milk, so if that’s what you’re into try it out and get back to me.
- Nice fat pinch of salt (about ¼ tsp)
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp bourbon
- This is half a tbsp each, when you divide out the servings, also known as Katie’s Wimpy Amount. Just add it to taste – if you want less, add less, if you want more, be prepared to fall asleep halfway through Jupiter Ascending and wake up with a splitting headache at 3am. (No? Just me? Cool.)
- Obviously put whipped cream on this. And sprinkles. And whatever else your sweet little reptile brain desires.
- Put 4 tbsp of fluff, or 6 marshmallows, into a saucepan and heat on medium low until they start to melt. Marshmallows are just sugar, so watch the corners of the pan for burning.
- Add broken-up shards of chocolate and whisk into marshmallows. They should start to come together as they melt, but mixture will be thick and dry. You don’t want the chocolate to burn, so if it starts smoking take it right off the heat. The residual heat from the pan will do a lot of the work here. Your marshmallow stuff will get stuck in the center of the whisk, there’s nothing I can do about it, make sure you have a small spoon to poke it back out with.
- When it’s hard and grainy and kind of burny and terrifying looking, but mostly together, take it off the heat and stream in about half a cup of your milk, whisking. The cold milk will hiss, but as you whisk it into the Goo it should come together into a smooth paste.
- Once this happens, add the rest of your milk, return to heat, and keep whisking until everything is melted and combined. You may want to take a stiff spatula into the corners of the pan to make sure nothing has stuck to the bottom and everything is incorporating well.
- Add your pinch of salt and vanilla, and bring to just below a simmer, still whisking.
- When cocoa is good and hot, I find it tends to get quite foamy and wisps of steam will be coming off the top. If you let it boil, it will become pudding, which is not a terrible thing, but not ideal in this circumstance. This is a time to taste it and see if it needs more milk, more marshmallows, a smidge more salt.
- When you’re happy with the taste, take it off the heat and whisk in your bourbon. Divide into mugs, top with more marshmallows, whipped cream, etc., and prepare to get Extremely Cozy.