Hot chocolate is to skating rinks what hot dogs are to ball parks, and with the plethora of outdoor rinks in this city, toting your own thermos along for the slide seems a no-brainer. Sitting on a wooden bench, warming up with a mug of cocoa after an hour or so on an outdoor park rink is an iconic Canadian image. Many rinks sell hot chocolate, but a lot of what is served out there is instant, which is about as close to the real thing as instant coffee is to fresh brewed.
Making your own at home and bringing it along gives you more options; you can choose the milk, the type of cocoa, make it out of soy or nut “milk “ and of course you can add a little something extra for the grown ups. There are other hot beverages available too, like Milo and Ovaltine, but many of us find that these are like educational toys, the hot chocolate equivalent of Sunday School.
When choosing a cocoa, a “Dutched” cocoa such as Fry’s, named after Englishman Joseph Fry who started makingchocolate in 1759, will result in a more mellow drink. Dutch style cocoa means it has been processed with an alkaline solution which results in a darker but milder cocoa. A non-alkalized cocoa, such as Hershey’s retains more of the cocoa’s acidic qualities; slightly lighter in colour and not as mellow. Again, this may be a matter of taste, and I can think of worse ways to spend a chilly afternoon than having a hot chocolate tasting party!
Here’s how to make the perfect hot chocolate, of course you can adjust the quantities of sugar and cocoa depending on your taste.
Fill thermos with HOT water.
1) Put cold milk in a heavy bottom saucepan. Allow a 12 oz. mug per serving. Turn heat to medium high.
2) Add two tablespoons of sugar for each serving.
3) Add 1 heaping teaspoon powdered, unsweetened cocoa per serving
4) Whisk constantly while cocoa heats up to simmering, making sure milk does not scald. Cocoa will be light and frothy. Remove cocoa from heat.
5) Empty heated thermos of water and add cocoa. Immediately seal.
Constant whisking not only keeps the cocoa from scalding and makes the beverage lighter and more frothy, it also helps to diminish the thin “skin” that often appears when heating milk. Do not be overly off-put by this membrane, it is just the casein and beta proteins combining with the fat molecules.
If you want to booze up your hot chocolate, keep it simple! Don’t go overboard with the hooch, 1-2 ounces per serving should suffice. Add liquor to the thermos then pour hot chocolate on top.
Boozy hot chocolate suggestions: Brandy and Crème de Cacao, Tia Maria and Bailey’s.