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Kitchen Adventures: Warm up Christmas with hot chocolate

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Food column by Becca Owsley

By Becca Owsley

It’s Christmas morning. Presents are unwrapped and the family is hanging out in their pajamas surveying gifts. A homemade cup of hot chocolate is just the thing to cap off the morning, especially if it’s a snowy or cold Christmas.

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In fact, the perfect cup of hot chocolate is something to enjoy throughout the winter.

Peppermint hot chocolate is a great seasonal treat, but if you buy enough candy canes during the post-Christmas sales, you can enjoy the flavor long after the holiday is over.

After looking at the recipe for peppermint hot chocolate, I’ll admit I took a few short cuts. Most notably I skipped the double broiler method of melting chocolate and went straight to the microwave.

At first I thought this was a lot of work just for a cup of hot chocolate, but then I tasted the result. It was the best cup of hot chocolate I have ever tasted. The whipped cream on top made it even better.

In fact, I only intended to taste the cup of hot chocolate for the column and take photos, but it was so good I finished a giant cup of it.

If you have any of these ingredients around Christmas morning, or something that can substitute well, I highly recommend making a cup as a post-present frenzy treat.

Peppermint flavoring also might taste good in a warm cup of coffee. Peppermint whipped cream also could be fun to add as.

There are other things you can try to change up hot chocolate. One recipe adds red food coloring to make red velvet cocoa. Other colors add a fun twist. Using different colors, shapes of sprinkles or flavoring in the whipped cream are other ways you can make hot chocolate special.

Sometimes it’s not just about the hot chocolate, but fun things you can make to go with it, too.

There are a variety of treats you can make to dip or melt into hot chocolate, but marshmallow dippers are pretty easy to make. I found paper straws at Michaels, but I’m sure any type of straw or wooden pick would work.

You simply put the marshmallow on the end of the straw or skewer and dip the other end in chocolate. Sprinkles add a festive touch.

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

Candy Manor Peppermint Hot Chocolate (Adapted from Lora Brody’s “Chocolate American Style”)
Makes 4 to 6 servings 

Whipped Cream
1 cup (8 ounces) heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 tablespoons crushed peppermint candy 

Hot Chocolate
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, grated
1 quart (32 ounces) whole milk
1/3 cup (3 ounces) sugar
1/3 cup (3 ounces) boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Candy canes, garnish

For the whipped cream, place the cream, powdered sugar and peppermint extract in a chilled mixing bowl and beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the crushed candy. Refrigerate the whipped cream.

For the hot chocolate, place the chocolate in a 2 1/2-quart metal mixing bowl. Place the bowl over (but not touching) a pan of simmering water. The bowl will seem large, but you need the space to mix in the milk. Stir the chocolate occasionally with a rubber spatula.

In the meantime, pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan. Whisk in the sugar and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk begins to simmer and bubbles form around the edge. Turn off the heat.

When the chocolate has melted, reduce the heat so the water under the pan barely simmers. Pour the 1/3 cup of boiling water into the melted chocolate and whisk or beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Dribble in the hot milk mixture as you whisk. When the ingredients are well incorporated, remove the bowl from the water bath and stir in the vanilla and peppermint.

To serve, ladle the hot chocolate into mugs and top with a generous dollop of the whipped cream. Garnish with a candy cane.
www.ezrapoundcake.com


Red Velvet Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate
4 cups of milk
Splash of water
3/4 cups of premium semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon of red food coloring paste

Whipped cream
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of whipped cream cheese

In a medium mixing bowl or a stand-up mixer, pour in heavy whipping cream and sugar. Whip on medium with the whisk attachment for two to three minutes. Just before it peaks, add the teaspoon of whipped cream cheese and whisk for another two minutes. Taste the whipped cream and add more cream cheese to taste. If you like it more tart, add another 1/2 teaspoon, just be careful to not over whip or you’ll have butter on your hands in no time.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat. Add a splash of water and the chocolate chips, constantly stirring gently. When almost melted, add the red food coloring paste and stir some more. The color should be a deep red. When the chocolate chips are all melted, pour the hot chocolate in four mugs and top with the whipped cream.
wwww.acozykitchen.com

Hot Chocolate Dippers
Large marshmallows
Drinking straws
Melting chocolate
Sprinkles 

Skewer marshmallows on the straws then melt chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl.

Dip marshmallows, leaving white tops exposed. Lift sticks straight up, letting excess chocolate drip off.

Cool briefly on waxed paper but dip the chocolate end of the marshmallow into the sprinkles while the chocolate is slightly hot.
www.goodhousekeeping.com