How do I always end up with such an extensive list of things to do on Christmas Eve? I mean aside from the working flat-out until the day before, inevitable last-minute inspirations for the perfect handmade gift that cannot be made at the last minute, the fact that Christmas Eve is the big celebration in our family, all with a side of being easily distracted?
All to-do list anxiety aside, this twofold revelation crossed a few things off my list in one fell swoop:
- Hot cocoa mix, even custom hot cocoa mix, is really easy to make.
- Most people really like hot cocoa.
The dairy effect in this is created by a mixture of non-fat dry milk and non-dairy creamer, much like the magical fairy dust many coffee shops use in sweet, creamy drinks. You know, that stuff you suspect contains the addictive chemicals that make you crave a cafe vanilla fortnightly. To make a product free of dairy or lactose, you could probably get away with only using creamer (or just make a mix-with-milk variety by leaving out the milky-creamy stuff).
In any event, we tried a few rounds of different ratios of the basic ingredients: cocoa powder, sugar, salt, dry milk, and creamer. We also amped the chocolate up a little by taking some bittersweet, 70% cacao Callebaut chocolate and putting it in the food processor until it got to a coarse cornmeal texture.
Mix-With-Water Hot Cocoa Basegluten-free, optionally lactose-free
makes about 5½ c./22 servings
- 1 c. cocoa powder (I prefer dutch-process cocoa, or part-dutched, but it can be hard to find)
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 c. nonfat dry milk (replace with another cup of creamer to make it lactose-free)
- 2 c. non-dairy powdered creamer
- 1 tsp. salt (a pinch of salt makes the rest of the flavors bloom - this works out to about 1/22 tsp per cup)
- ½ c. ground bittersweet chocolate
Mix about ¼ c. base with 1 c. very hot/boiling water. Very hot water helps release the flavor of the cocoa powder (this is why a number of recipes using cocoa powder tell you to mix it with boiling water first) and melts the ground chocolate.
Scaling info/For one cup: I use these amounts because they're the simplest way of describing the ratio. Using tablespoons instead of cups makes about the right quantity for 1 cup. This makes the salt more difficult to scale, but remember that 48 tsp = 1 cup and 16 Tblsp = 1 cup (hooray, imperial conversions!) and just use a pinch.
- Chili: Because chili and chocolate are an older combo than sugar and chocolate
Add 1-2 tsp ground chili per pint of cocoa mix (my favorite is smoky chipotle, but cayenne gives a smooth, clean heat)
- Raspberry: One of chocolate's favorite fruits (you can use other freeze-dried fruits, but this is the one that seemed to mesh best with cocoa)
Grind ¼-½ c. freeze-dried raspberries (check Trader Joe's or Whole Foods) to a powder and add to a pint of cocoa base
- Chai spice: For the Bollywood lover on your list
per pint of base
- 1 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/4 c. ground cinnamon
- &frad12; tsp. gr. clove
- 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- Peppermint Candycane: Get seasonal and get rid of those languishing candycanes!
Crush candycanes as finely as possible. Add about ¼-½ c. crushed candycane per pint of base.
- Mocha: Because coffee and chocolate will always love each other. Add ¼-½ c. instant coffee per pint of base.