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~ A Make-Ahead Christmas Morning Hot Chocolate ~

PICT0363I didn't run down the stairs on Christmas morning to the giant pile of presents under a Norman Rockwell-esque tree.  My brother and I, in our footed PJ's, raced down the L-shaped, 18-20-foot or so hallway from our respective bedrooms into the "great big" room... we lived in a ranch-style house.  The tree itself, which sat in front of a picture window overlooking the backyard, had my mom's rather large manger scene under it, about 200 total pieces (more or less, 100 sheep, 50 shepherds, 25 cows, the 3 wisemen and their camels, a handful of angels, Mary, Joseph, and, of course, the baby Jesus), so, our gifts were always mounded in the center of the room.  I genuinely don't remember what we ate for breakfast on Christmas morning... and I'm not sure we, as a family, ever ate any breakfast at all on Christmas morning (although I'm sure we did). What I do remember is that we weren't allowed to rip into our presents and have a free-for-all. We four, as a family, opened our presents in rotation, and, we didn't start until we all had a cup of hot chocolate, and a cookie or two in our hands.  It was a special morning indeed.

ImagesI remember the year we got the red plastic toboggans, and, the weather cooperated big time.  My parents built our house at the top of Ye Old Hauto Road. We got a couple of feet of snow that year, followed by about an inch of ice that night.  The State of PA closed Rt. 309, locally known as The Hometown Hill. Starting from my parents driveway, like daredevils we "pushed off" (no helmets required back then).  We took the 3/4-1 mile slide down this very steep, one-lane, winding (snow and ice covered) dirt road right onto the closed three-lane thoroughfare.  We repeated this all morning.  I don't remember eating any breakfast that day, but I do remember a fresh pair of warm mittens and a cup of hot chocolate waiting for us each time we took the long march back up that steep hill to home!

ImagesI remember the year we were old enough for "real" ice-skates.  The kind like the figure skaters wear.  I remember lacing up my white ones and my younger brother lacing up his black ones (well, my mom laced his up, because my brother never really did anything for himself if he didn't have to).  We walked about half an acre to the back of my parents property and entered the woods, where, as luck would have it, there is a pond-of-sorts.  Our family, even today, affectionately refers to it as "the frog pond", because it isn't really deep enough for anything except frogs to live in, but, nonetheless, it is secluded, sheltered from the wind and freezes to a glassy sheen.  No one ever gave a thought to the possibility of us drowning in it or anything.  I don't remember eating any breakfast that day either, but I do remember a fresh pair of warm mittens and a cup of hot chocolate waiting for us each time we re-entered the house that day!

Make a Memory - Make Some Hot Chocolate

A bit about "hot chocolate" and "hot cocoa":  While the terms are often used interchangeably, there is one noteworthy difference between the two.  Hot cocoa is made from a mix of cocoa, sugar and sometimes spices, which are always in powdered form.  Hot chocolate is made right from bars of chocolate (dark and/or milk) which have cocoa, sugar and cocoa butter in them, sugar and sometimes spices.  Both "chocolate" and "cocoa" can be made with or without milk. The hot chocolate I am going to show you how to make today is not a thin/watery version that we in the US are used to being served.  It is a rich, thick, delectable European version of the  drink and can easily be served for dessert in small demitasse cups.  It is also the perfect base for all sorts of chocolatey holiday cocktails.  If it makes you feel any better, studies have shown that hot chocolate is actually quite heathy because of all of the antioxidants in the cocoa!

PICT0343~ Step 1:  In a 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently,  bring:

3  cups heavy or whipping cream 

1  cup milk

to steaming hot and beginning to bubble around the edges of the pot.




~ Step 2.  Vigorously, whisk in:

2  tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

 1  tablespoon sugar

 1/4  teaspoon salt

 1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

until frothy and uniform in color.



~ Step 3.  Turn the heat off and add/stir in:

12  ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels

6  ounces milk chocolate morsels

2  tablespoon cinnamon morsels

and, allow to sit for 20-30 seconds. Whisk until shiny and smooth.  Pour into desired sized cups and serve with mini-marshmallows and top with grated chocolate!

PICT0362A Make-Ahead Christmas Morning Hot Chocolate:  Recipe yields 6 cups.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; whisk

PICT0372Cook's Note:  To make the hot chocolate a day ahead, prepare it exactly as directed above.  When it is done, remove the saucepan from the heat, cover and set aside to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Transfer to a food storage container, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight, or 2-3 days in advance of serving.  Reheat gently in the microwave or a double boiler on the stovetop!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 


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