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Hot chocolate

"Trying to make hot chocolate into a health drink is, in my opinion, wrong." Felicity Cloake

Indeed Felicity, indeed. Although it did begin life as sort of a health drink. Well the Mayans, it's believed were the first to make chocolate into a drink well before BC. So it's ancient. Apparently everyone drank it but they drank it cold and bitter. It was not sweetened. But I do think that it was at least partly considered to be medicinal.

It was the Europeans who added the sugar - the Spanish I think. But they also considered it to be medicinal. Then in the eighteenth century when sugar was being grown in vast quantities, thanks to slaves, chocolate became a sweet drink so that along with the craze for coffee houses you had chocolate houses too.

I have spent most of the day trawling the shops for Christmas presents for my nearest and dearest, which I think has probably concluded with the females winning out over the males. So I either have to be giving a lot of vouchers for computer games, sporting occasions of various kinds, and experiences of one sort or another or overload them with booze and chocolate. So the smaller presents are going to be a bit more important this year and I am focussing on home-made this year - and foodie, and hot chocolate kits is one idea that I am considering. Something like these perhaps.

Not that it's that straightforward. Well it never is is it? Some of the examples I saw had layers of sugar, milk powder, malted milk powder, cocoa powder plus the chocolate and marshmallows. But it seems to me that a really good hot chocolate should probably be made from just milk and melted chocolate with some marshmallows on top perhaps for kids, and some kind of spice - cinnamon or vanilla seem to be the favourites as well. Some even suggest a dash of a liqueur such as kahlua. And a pinch of salt - the deal maker in some people's eyes. Perhaps a compromise would be to have a layer of the malted milk mixed with spices and some classy cocoa powder with layers of chocolate and marshmallows - maybe those candy umbrella things - although it seems to me they are a bit American. It's a toss up between making it look good and taste good. The layers are a bit Impractical though really aren't they? Well too many of them. After all they are going to mix it all together at some point anyway. Maybe a bit of transparent cellophane between each layer?

Then there's the problem of Australia and Christmas. I mean hot chocolate might be a Christmassy thing to the English and the Americans, but not the Australians. Cold fizzy drinks are more the thing here. So then I thought how could I package an iced chocolate drink? Which actually turned out to be rather more tricky to find. And ultimately not a good idea. After all you need ice cream and/or ice blocks - no melting of chocolate in milk, and no marshmallows, so I'm abandoning that one. Besides we drink hot coffee in the summer so why not hot chocolate?

So it's back to the best way of making a superb hot chocolate. Start with high quality chocolate.

"If you want to take the drink seriously, use the most bitter chocolate you can find ... then sweeten it yourself".

says Nigel Slater, and he could be right, but others would disagree and certainly, Felicity Cloake, a girl after my own heart, came down on the side of compromise with a mixture of dark and milk chocolate. She didn't make her version look pretty though - it was absolutely plain. Hers is the last version shown here, the others vary from extreme over the top lavishness to somewhere in the middle. Or you can even make it with white chocolate.

However, my problem is that I am presenting a gift that has to have the components for making a good hot chocolate whilst looking attractive in itself. So I think I'll compromise as I said before, and make a quality cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and malt milk powder mix, topped with chopped chocolate and marshmallows. That should do it.

Or should I just abandon the idea - after all there is the summer problem. I mean it really should be drunk

"on dark, dreary afternoons when spring seems to be receding from view, or when life seems to be one long series of stubbed toes." Felicity Cloake

Mind you life can seem like on long series of stubbed toes even in summer. So perhaps now at the end of lockdown and with the disappearance of COVID in sight it actually is a good time to drink hot chocolate. I could boost it with nice mugs too.


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