Hot Chocolate, Mocha and Mexican Hot Chocolate

Today is a rainy day in the Upstate of South Carolina. Cold, grey and the steady sound of a light rain hitting roofs, outdoor furniture, decking and windows. Very me. If that's not your definition of comforting, how about a mug of hot chocolate to make everything better, like a parent's kiss on your childhood boo-boo? Now we're in agreement perhaps.

The best way to make hot chocolate is to heat up some milk (in a saucepan on the stove--not the microwave) and then stir or whisk in a tablespoon (or more) of unsweetened cocoa powder and just enough sugar to make you feel loved. Pour into the mug of your choice and top off with a couple of large marshmallows. Stir to cool a bit and give the marshmallows a chance to melt into that pool of chocolate.

You can spice things up by heating the milk very, very slowly with a stick of cinnamon, one star anise and maybe a grating of nutmeg or a teeny bit of ginger root. Once the aromatics have had time to infuse the milk, then you follow the rest of the process.

And, if you're a purist about your chocolate, keep the milk out--use water and more cocoa powder.

Years ago, back when I was chef-owner of Despina's International Cafe & Salon Gallery, and way before I knew that such a thing as Mexican Hot Chocolate existed, I developed a hot chocolate recipe for the restaurant. Actually, because we made and sold a lot of coffee, it's a hot MOCHA recipe, but we can get over that little detail, right? Right. And, besides, you can certainly substitute milk or water for the coffee in my recipe. My recipe incorporates the traditional almond meal and gives a lovely chewiness to the chocolate sipping. I didn't know it was a traditional ingredient in Mexican Hot Chocolate, all I knew was that I wanted it in my recipe and I liked the way it felt in my mouth and on my palate. For my recipe, which is enough for a crowd, click here.

My version of Mexican Hot Chocolate is easy.
1/2 disc Abuelita or Ibarra hot chocolate
1 1/2 cups half & half
1 tablespoon almond meal or almond flour

Cut up the chocolate mix disc half into smaller pieces using a knife. Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat slowly over medium heat. Whisk gently to help the chocolate melt. Once everything is heated thoroughly, remove from the heat and whisk to develop a bit of foam. Serve at once. I like to add 3 (sometimes more) drops of Sriracha (yes, the hot stuff) to spice things up a bit.

If you want to learn more about authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate, you can read this post by the marvelous Pati Jinich.

Here's Rick Bayless showing Martha Stewart how to make authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate.