Hooray for hot chocolate

Give your hot chocolate the coffee house treatment by whipping the milk until frothy. (Supplied)

Give your hot chocolate the coffee house treatment by whipping the milk until frothy. (Supplied)

Rita DeMontis, National Food Editor, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:47 PM ET

If winter had a national drink, it would be hot chocolate.

Sure, we love the apple ciders, rum toddies and that classic drink, Irish coffee.

But in the season of snow -- hot chocolate is king.

In a recent survey from The Daily Meal, home to all things food and drink, thirsty readers favoured this wintertime classic over all other drinks.

The survey found most readers (38%) reached for a cup of hot chocolate, while 20% of voters chose tea, 19% voted for coffee while hot apple cider came in last at 11%.

Hot chocolate is rich in nostalgia and flavour, whipped cream and marshmallows, depending on your preference. Almost every country has its signature hot chocolate drink, plus — the hot chocolate of today has come along way from what your great-grandma used to make.

There are as many hot chocolates as there are chocolate flavours, and can range from sensual to exotic to spicy to hot chocolates with a touch of alcohol.

The history of hot chocolate goes back more than 2,000 years to the Mayans, who created a bitter cocoa beverage indicative of the Aztec culture. It was used for its medicinal properties and who can argue that a cup of cocoa can lift spirits faster than anything.

When you make a cup of hot cocoa, try different spices to enhance the flavour of the chocolate. Consider adding cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, even a pinch of hot pepper to amp up this hot treat.

Ready-made, instant or a pure from scratch experience, hot chocolate rules, especially in the coming cold weather season.

Hot chocolates aren’t created equal, The Daily Meal recently unveiled tips for the perfect sip from seasoned experts Jacques Torres and L.A. Burdick’s Michael Klug:

— Go with shaved chocolate: " It melts more quickly in hot milk, allowing for a better and smoother incorporation of ingredients,” says Klug,

— In the battle of milk vs. water, milk wins: Says Torres, "If I'm going to drink a hot chocolate that I already know has a lot of calories, I'm going to make it damn good."

— Don't be afraid to let it infuse overnight: People say soup often tastes better the next day, and the same applies for hot chocolate.

— Order of things: To achieve the best consistency, Torres recommends heating the milk, pouring it over the chocolate, mixing, and then placing the mixture back into a pot and heating it on the stove until it starts to boil again.

— For more tips, visit thedailymeal.com/tips-making-perfect-hot-chocolate.

Here are three excellent hot chocolate recipes, courtesy of the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

DARK CHOCOLATE STEAMER

2 Tbsp. (30 ml) cocoa powder

1 Tbsp. (15 ml) sugar

2-1/2 cups (625 ml) milk

2 1/2 oz (75 g) semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 cup (50 ml) 35% whipping cream (optional)

In a small saucepan, combine cocoa powder, sugar and a small quantity of the milk. At medium heat, whisk in the rest of the milk. Once mixture is heated through, stir in semi-sweet chocolate until melted. In a bowl, with whisk or electric mixer, beat cream until thick. Garnish hot chocolate with whipped cream (optional).

Serves 3.

EXTRA-CHOCOLATE LATTE STEAMER

2 Tbsp. (30 ml) cocoa powder

1 Tbsp. (15 ml) sugar

2 cups (500 ml) chocolate milk

Grated chocolate for garnish

In a saucepan or large glass measuring cup, combine cocoa powder and sugar. Gradually whisk in milk until blended. Heat in saucepan over medium heat or in microwave on medium (50%) power until steaming, 3 to 5 minutes. To froth: Using a battery-powered latte whip or a whisk attachment on an immersion blender, whip hot milk mixture until frothy. Or, transfer to an upright blender or milk frother and blend or pump until frothy. Pour into warmed latte bowls or large mugs and sprinkle or drizzle with suggested garnish.

Serves 2.

DECADENT HOT CHOCOLATE

2-1/2 cups (625 ml) milk, divided

1 cup (250 ml) 18% table cream, divided

1/4 cup (50 ml) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (60 ml) unsweetened cocoa powder

Pinch salt

<1 tsp. (5 ml) vanilla

In saucepan, heat 2 cups (500 ml) of milk and cream over medium heat, stirring often, until steaming.

Meanwhile, in bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa and salt. Whisk in remaining 1/2 cup (125 ml) cold milk and vanilla to make a smooth paste. Reduce heat to medium-low and gradually whisk cocoa mixture into hot milk mixture until blended. Heat, stirring, for about 2 minutes or until steaming hot. Ladle hot chocolate into 4 warmed mugs.

Serves 4.


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