DAY 6: Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix
Homemade hot cocoa mix makes a great gift for friends and neighbors, and if you have a lot of people you are giving to, it is also easy to make ahead of time and takes a lot less time than a dozen different kinds of cookies on a fancy cookie plate.
Unless, of course, you are me. And then it ends up taking you exponentially longer and costing you much more that you had originally budgeted.
As I was giving these for gifts last year, I bought some large bars of expensive dark chocolate. Only the best for my friends! I broke the bars into chunks and combined them in my food processor with cocoa (I also sprung for a $$$ brand) and sugar. I turned on the food processor to finely chop the chocolate, and the force of the chocolate hitting the sides of my food processor caused the bowl to crack all the way around the bottom of the bowl, leaving the bowl in two pieces: a flat bottom piece and the now bottom-less sides. Unfortunately, this did not stop the food processor blade from turning. Cocoa powder, sugar, partially chopped chocolate and possibly chips of plastic sprayed across my kitchen in a 5-foot radius as I fought my way back to the off switch. Also on the counter were open containers of Vanilla Sugar, cocoa and other ingredients that were now covered in possibly plastic-laden chocolate, so all of those things got dumped into the trash can.
What was supposed to be a quick gift project turned into an all-day kitchen cleaning. Cleaning cocoa powder out of the grooves of kitchen cabinets and hardwood flooring is no fun at all. And gone was my expensive dark chocolate and cocoa powder. And my Bosch food processor.
Back to square one (and the grocery store) the next day, I opted for less-expensive chocolate (Ghirardelli 60% cocoa bittersweet baking chips and Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa) and ground the chocolate in my blender since I was still out one food processor (I am still out one food processor, come to think of it!).
The resulting Hot Cocoa mix was still delicious and makes a great gift. Just beware of chopping large chunks of chocolate in your food processor.
This makes a very rich dark chocolate cocoa. For a sweeter cocoa, use milk chocolate instead of semi-sweet.
One special ingredient that makes this cocoa mix really good is Vanilla Powder, a powdered version of vanilla extract. I also like to use Vanilla Sugar: granulated sugar macerated with vanilla beans. To make Vanilla Sugar: Split and scrape 2 vanilla beans (don’t throw away the pods!). In a large bowl or canister, mix granulated sugar and vanilla bean seeds and pods. Use your fingers to mix the seeds throughout the sugar. Bury the pods in the sugar, cover bowl and let sit at least overnight. I like to keep a canister of Vanilla Sugar stocked in my pantry. Every 3-4 months (or more often during baking season), I refill the sugar and replace the vanilla beans.
Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix
——-(from Annie’s Eats)
4 cups granulated sugar (or Vanilla Sugar: sugar + 2 vanilla beans**)
2 cups Dutch process cocoa powder (or Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 1/2 Tbs vanilla powder
1 1/2 lb semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or chocolate chips)
9 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
In a large bowl, mix sugar (or vanilla sugar), cocoa powder and vanilla powder. In the bowl of a food processor, combine about 1 cup of the sugar/cocoa mixture with about 1 cup of the chopped chocolate. Pulse to blend and finely chop chocolate. Empty into a separate large bowl. Repeat with remaining sugar/cocoa and chopped chocolate. Stir cocoa mix well to evenly distribute ingredients. Store in an airtight container.
To make HOT COCOA: Mix 2 Tbs cocoa mix into 8 oz of hot milk. Stir until well blended.
Makes 12 cups mix (enough to fill 3 quart jars), about 96 servings.
**To make Vanilla Sugar: Split and scrape 2 vanilla beans. In a large bowl, mix granulated sugar and vanilla bean seeds and pods. Use your fingers to mix the seeds throughout the sugar. Make sure the pods are buried in the sugar. Cover bowl and let sit at least overnight. Vanilla Sugar will keep for months when covered at room temperature. Remove vanilla bean pods before using sugar. I like to keep a canister of Vanilla Sugar stocked in my pantry. Every 3-4 months (or more often during baking season), I refill the sugar and replace the vanilla beans.