Very Warm Cocoa

Posted by    |  January 29, 2011  |  Filed under: Home, Recipes

“Homemade” Hot Cocoa mesmerizes my kids’ playdates in the winter. “You mean your mom actually makes hot cocoa from scratch??!!” I love the illusion I can spin with homemade cocoa: kids think I am a genius super-mom. The word “homemade” implies work and care and effort. I sort of feel like I’m cheating:  what a ridiculously easy way to be a hero.

Hot cocoa made from scratch is something that the absolute most domestically inept person in the world can pull off. The ingredient list is short and common. It doesn’t really consume any more time than pouring boiling water on powdered mix. It doesn’t require any special equipment. The payoff is huge: a silky textured, subtly sweet drink that tastes of chocolate perfused with vanilla.

Remember when your mom would make hot cocoa for you while you unbundled from the bazillion layers of scarves and hats and soggy socks- that had come off in your boots anyway- while you were sledding? You’d finally get to the table, excited to slurp those half-melted marshmallows into your mouth and- oh, no!- they’d already become a sheet of goo. You’d then take your first slurp and- OUCH!- burn the heck out of your tongue, which would of course make your tongue all bumpy and grainy and miserable for the next day or so. Kind of a joykill, eh?

The advantages of “very warm” cocoa are myriad. The primary advantage is that the whipped cream or marshmallows melt more slowly over the top of the cocoa. Ooooh, how I love a heavily whipped cream slowly melting into the top of my cocoa. Very warm cocoa can also be consumed sooner, preventing the formation of “cocoa sludge” at the bottom of the cup. When it is boiling hot, you have to let it sit for a long time before you can really drink it, which gives the solids more time to settle at the bottom, resulting in weakly flavored first sips and syrupy last sips. Finally, very warm cocoa prevents the unpleasantries of scalds to impatient little tongues.

4 cups of milk Use what you’ve got, but I prefer 2% or whole milk.
¼ cup cocoa powder I prefer “dutched or dutch-processed.” My favorite brand is Droste but Ghirardelli or Hershey’s are great. I’d avoid “Hershey’s Extra Dark.” Its flavor is strange and the color is a shade of wet cement.
1/3 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla


1. Pour the milk into a microwavable, pourable container. A glass or ceramic batter bowl works great, as does a ceramic pitcher with a microwave-safe glaze. Alternatively, you could put the milk in a pot and do this on the range, but I’m just going with the microwave. I have a cute little vessel especially for this purpose. Made by Bodum, I picked it up on the cheap a few years ago after the daffodils were blooming and Crate & Barrel was clearing them out.
2. Microwave on high for about 6 minutes. The ideal temperature is “hot enough to dip your finger in, but uncomfortble to leave it in.”
3. Add the cocoa, sugar and vanilla. Whisk vigorously until well-incorporated and foaming. If you have one, use your immersion (stick) blender.
4. Serve with whipped cream or marshmallows, with a bit of cinnamon, ground chilies or cocoa powder for dusting.


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