Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hot Cocoa

Last night an ice storm blew through. Dallas being what it is, essentially a warm weather spot, this means that the town has shut down. People left work early yesterday, schools are closed, no traffic can be heard on the main road near our house, businesses will open late. Yes, I know. To anyone who has lived in harsher climes, this sounds ridiculous. However, when you live with weather that is in the 70s in April, hits two to three weeks of consecutive over 110 degree weather in August and can have you wearing shorts at Thanksgiving and Christmas, that is how it goes.

This is as wintery as it may get so it is time to break out the cocoa in celebration. I am not talking about those powdered mixes. Nor yet am I going too far on the other side with decadent melted chocolate. We're talking about true all-American cocoa of the sort that my own mother whipped up regularly when I was growing up in Kansas.

I remember reading a few years ago that someone, maybe America's Test Kitchen, discovered that water intensifies chocolate's flavor. News flash, folks. That already was known as you can see if you look at this recipe from one of my favorite American cookbooks, The New Doubleday Cookbook by Jean Anderson and Elaine Hanna.

Be sure to use whole milk, especially since this is using water first in the recipe which will bring out the flavor of the chocolate. Also, if you have a good rich cocoa that helps the drink, of course. I grew up on Hershey's cocoa like the rest of America, but have since found Penzey's cocoa which is a delectably dark cocoa. They recommend Dutch cocoa for cocoa but I only keep natural on hand. It works just fine.

Hot Cocoa
1 serving

1 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch salt
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup milk

Mix cocoa, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan, slowly stir in water. Heat and stir over moderately low heat until mixture boils, then boil slowly, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Add milk and heat to scalding [almost boiling] but do not boil.

Cocoa for a Crowd
12 servings

3/4 cup cocoa
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 quart warm water [4 cups]
2 quarts milk

Make as above, except take 8 minutes to incorporate water and bring to a boil.

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