Winter. A white wonderland full of amazing beauty that can sometimes be cold and chilly.
So, when you need to warm up be sure to step inside from the cold and make yourself a warm drink.
Being in the ‘great white north’ also means many chocolate shops offer or make hot chocolate. We need to stay warm during our chilly winters.
Here are the details of a few of my favs that I have been enjoying this last while. I almost always have a hot chocolate every Sunday of the year, so I have a variety to choose from. These get enjoyed much more often during the winter once it starts to get colder.
Cacao 70 – Based in Montreal, this is now a bigger chain of stores and is available many places across Canada. Their factory is in Montreal and is very beautiful. They offer several flavours of hot chocolate, I prefer their Sesame Hot Cocoa Powder since it’s a bit different. There are actually pieces of black sesame seeds in the powder mix and it makes it taste nutty. I see they have a new line of drinking chocolate, but I have yet to purchase any. I prefer mixing this with water over milk.
Chocosol – Based in Toronto, this little shop creates some amazing products. I love their drinking chocolate, hot or cold. The instructions suggest blending it in a blender, and trust me, it is worth the effort and is the only way I make it now, it’s so much thicker with the air mixed into it. My fav is the Oaxacan Cinnamon, that touch of cinnamon makes it the perfect Mexican style hot chocolate. I also love that it’s in brick form.
Hummingbird Chocolate – Based in Almonte, just outside of Ottawa, this bean to bar chocolate maker offers their hot chocolate in block form, all ready to stir into warm milk. Its pre-portioned size eliminates measuring and gives you the right amount every time. Keep in mind a warmer milk melts the chocolate faster, and the spoon in the center is great for stirring. The Hispaniola is an award winning chocolate and perfect for all chocolate lovers.
McGuire Chocolate – Based in Calgary, this bean to bar chocolate maker is expanding its products and has added Hot Chocolate to the mix. This 62% Hot Chocolate is great mixed with your favourite milk. It’s sure to please everyone as is not as dark a chocolate as some other makers.
Soma – Based in Toronto, Soma does a bit of everything – bonbons, gelato, bean to bar, confections, and hot chocolate. Their Dark Side of the Mug is a delicious drinking chocolate. There are options to make it in a strong small portion or a whole mug. The chocolate bits melt so easily into whatever base you choose. Creamy and rich, it is worth picking up if you see it.
Soul Chocolate – Based in Toronto, this bean to bar plus coffee shop just introduced their Drinking Chocolate this fall. It’s made with a 70% Chocolate and is available plain or in Peppermint. It also has the instructions for a small shot of chocolate or a mug of drinking chocolate. It’s very enjoyable. I prefer the plain, but hubby loves the peppermint, as peppermint and chocolate are one of his favourite combos. I hope to one day try this in their shop, where they have a Campfire Hot Chocolate, served with smoke and a toasted marshmallow… yes please!
Personally, I tend to mix most of my hot chocolates with almond milk, a local nut mylk, or coconut milk. I often make hubby’s with a 1-2% dairy milk. It really depends on your taste. Be aware that different milks can change the flavour of the hot chocolate slightly. I usually try every hot chocolate with water the first time I make it, to get a clear sense of its flavour. For example, if I’m out at a coffee shop I tend to order with a nut or oat milk if it is available. There is no right or wrong way to make hot chocolate. Below are a few ways you can make hot chocolate without a store bought hot chocolate or drinking chocolate mix.
There are endless ways to make hot chocolate. One of my favourite ways is to use a really good chocolate bar. I put some milk (dairy, coconut, almond, or soy) in a pot to warm on the stove. As the liquid comes up to temperature, I chop up a few squares of the chocolate bar. Depending on my mood and the bar I chop more or less. Some days I want a really chocolatey drink so I add more chocolate. Other days I want just a hint of chocolate in my milk so I add less. This is how you can completely customize your hot chocolate. Once the milk is warm I add the chocolate and stir with a whisk. Once the colour is uniform, and all the chocolate has combines nicely, I take a taste to see if it needs anything else. Sometimes at this point I will add a bit more chocolate, or a little more milk. If it is a really dark chocolate (think 90-100%), I am using sometimes I sweeten it with a spoonful of local maple syrup. This adds lovely depth and flavour to some chocolates and is worth experimenting with. I have also added brown sugar and honey to various hot chocolates to experiment with the flavours. Personally I tend to prefer adding the maple syrup to sweeten them up, but perhaps that is just the Canadian in me.
You can also make hot chocolate just by adding hot water to chocolate. So if you are somewhere and all you have is a bar of chocolate it’s easy to make a mug. Put a few smaller pieces of the chocolate bar into the bottom of the mug, pour hot water on top, let sit for two to three minutes, then stir and there you have it, a lovely mug of hot chocolate. This way can let the true flavours of the chocolate shine through, especially if you are using a bean to bar chocolate.
Another way is to make a hot chocolate shot. Just melt the chocolate in a small saucepan and pour it into a mug, drinking it straight. This is good when you just want a little bit, but you want it super rich. Some hot chocolate mixes have instructions for a strong shot or a full mug of hot chocolate, the shot version being extremely chocolatey.
Recently I added some of a Gingerbread Spice bar from Hummingbird Chocolate to some almond milk, topped it with marshmallows and drank it by the fire. A lovely way to wind down after a long day.
There are endless possibilities for topping your hot chocolate. Whipping cream is a popular option, though I usually avoid dairy so tend not to top with whipped cream. I tend to not top my hot chocolate most times. If you want to top yours with an added treat some options include:
– marshmallows – easy to find at local markets, homemade ones are delicious and can be found in a variety of flavours (like peppermint, candy cane, maple, vanilla, caramel).
– chocolate dipped marshmallows – for total indulgence this is a real treat, often found in bakeries.
– sprinkles – to add colour or flavor, available in so many different colours, shapes and sizes.
– chocolate shavings – these are easy to make with a grater or knife and a chocolate bar or block. Great and easy for a pretty topping.
Now, if you are enjoying a cozy day by the fire, cookies never fail as a side for hot chocolate, ideally homemade and full of love.
If you go shopping these days there are also a lot of ready to make products available: chocolate and marshmallow on a stick ready to stir into your hot chocolate, chocolate syrups to add to liquids, single packages.
Hot chocolate isn’t everybody’s thing, if you are looking for a chocolate drink instead, there are many cacao teas available, or you can steep cacao nibs in hot water (longer than tea for a really chocolate flavour).
If you’re looking for something cold, you can always use a blender to mix your hot chocolate powder into milk or milk substitute, with some ice or ice cream, and make it a frozen hot chocolate. This tends not to be as creamy though since there is no melting happening.
However you enjoy your hot chocolate I wish you peace as you sip and savour, and that it keeps you cozy and warm.