Feel free to squeal with joy because I have THE BEST hot cocoa of your life right here.
Sunday brought a wealth of snow that still has yet to completely fade, placing my little city in a perpetual ‘snow-day’ frame of mind. These frigid mornings and cozy days are a happy thing, and a thing not often experienced by my part of the country this time of year.
That being the case, we get a little exuberant about our snow days. Cookies are baked and hot cocoa is plentiful.
Do you say “hot cocoa” or “hot chocolate”? I can never make up my mind, so I vacillate between the two depending upon current mood, or, in the case of recipe development, whatever noun fits best within my recipe’s title.
Several weeks back, Mr. Pedantic drove us through my favorite red-cup coffee chain and ordered a snickerdoodle hot chocolate for himself. I, of course, had to steal a sip and immediately decided to create an at-home version.
But, an at-home version that really tasted like a cookie. The Starbuck’s rendition is good to be sure, but I wanted to take mine a step further.
To achieve this chocolatey dream, I whisked in a bit of both vanilla and butter extracts. While I would hope that all of us have a bottle of vanilla extract in our cabinets, butter extract is more of a recent fad. This odd-sounding extract adds an unmistakeable hint of cookie or cake flavor to recipes. Think of a more mild version of cake batter ice cream. I use just the tiniest bit here to increase the freshly-baked cookie vibes.
The milk for our hot cocoa is simmered with a cinnamon stick for a mild layer of spice.
I also wanted to mimic the sugar-crusted finish of a snickerdoodle, so I stirred together a bit of crunchy, raw sugar and ground cinnamon, and sprinkled a bit over each serving.
Lastly, the thing that takes this hot cocoa to the next level of deliciousness; frothy, steamed milk.
Yes, it might seem like adding more milk at this point would drown out the lovely flavors we have created, but the milk actually works to buff out all of the flavors, subduing some of the richer notes in the best possible way, and making the hot cocoa so velvety.
Did you ever see such a tantalizing cup?
This is all I want to drink from now until February.
A chocolatey, steaming, cookie in a cup.
For your snow days, Christmas parties, and Christmas movie binges.
This is what December tastes like.
THE VERY BEST SNICKERDOODLE HOT COCOA
FOR THE SPICED SUGAR TOPPING
1/4 cup coarsely ground raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Mix together raw sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to use.
FOR THE HOT COCOA
Cook’s Note: I buy the Pound Plus bars of chocolate from Trader Joe’s for my hot cocoa. It melts wonderfully and the flavor is always perfection.
4 cups whole milk, divided use
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 5-inch cinnamon stick
8 ounces good quality milk chocolate (Belgian is best!!), roughly chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon butter extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pour 3 cups whole milk into a 3-quart saucepan, along with the granulated sugar and cinnamon stick. Place over medium heat and stir often, until the milk is steaming and slowly simmering, but not boiling.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in milk chocolate, extracts, and ground cinnamon. Whisk until very smooth and then divide the hot cocoa amongst four mugs.
Place remaining 1 cup milk in a glass measuring cup and microwave for 1-2 minutes; until steaming. Use a battery-powered frother to froth the milk until very foamy.
Divide the frothed milk amongst the cups, spooning a generous amount of foam on top of each serving. Sprinkle with spiced sugar and serve immediately.
Cook’s Note: You can make the hot chocolate up to two days in advance, simply reheat the hot cocoa over low heat on the stove top, or one serving at a time in the microwave, and wait to froth and add the milk until just before serving. Store the spiced sugar in a zip-top bag until ready to serve.