Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hot Drinks for Cold Nights

Now that winter is really here and making itself a true pest, it's time to ramp up your repertoire of hot beverages. Besides the usual coffee and tea (my favorites are Earl Grey and Lady Grey), don't forget hot chocolate.

If you want to make a real treat rather than just something sweet, do yourself a favor and dump the little packets. Make some hot chocolate from scratch -- it's easy and so much better than the mix. There are a million recipes, but I like this one from the Hershey's Dutch Processed Cocoa container.

Hot and Creamy Cocoa

2 servings

3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa
1/4 cup water
1 3/4 milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine sugar and cocoa in saucepan; stir in water. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; stir in milk and heat. DO NOT BOIL after milk is added. Remove from heat; add vanilla.

Of course this is just a base for all sorts of variations. Give it some Mexican flair by adding cinnamon, or a grown-up kick with Kahlua or some other complementary liqueur. But now for something completely different ...

Here's an unusual treat that I found on MyRecipes.com recently. The combination of white chocolate and ginger is inspired in a hot drink -- the spice of the ginger intensifies the warmth of the drink and gives it a depth beyond the sweet smoothness of the chocolate. This is a Cooking Light recipe so it does use skim milk; of course you could use whole or any other type of milk. Also, I have used a good-quality, fresh powdered ginger in place of the fresh in a pinch, but fresh really is wonderful.

Hot White Chocolate with Ginger

Cooking Light, Dec 2002
8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

2/3 cup chopped peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
8 cups fat-free milk
1 cup chopped premium white baking chocolate (about 4 ounces)

Combine first 3 ingredients in a large saucepan; cook over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is golden (about 5 minutes), stirring frequently. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Add milk and chocolate, stirring with a whisk. Heat over medium-low heat to 180° or until bubbles form around edge of pan, stirring frequently (do not boil). Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids.

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