Hot Cocoa versus Hot Chocolate: Abomination vs. Life-Giving Tonic

Published on Monday, 02 January 2012

I detest all hot "cocoa" mixes that only require hot water. I was reading the ingredients of one such mix the other day. They are quite interesting: sugar, modified whey, non-fat dry talcum powder, essence of cocoa (observed), vermiculite, partially hydrogenated conceptual art, carriage bolts, and artificial limbs. The sugar-free variety came with an "FDA Drug Facts" sheet. These hot cocoa "treats" are convenient at church social hours and ski lodges where providing a percolator with hot water is much easier than having to provide hot milk. But if you have soy-, rice- or cows milk in your fridge and a microwave oven, stove, or portable propane cooker (and a microwave-safe mug or small sauce pan as appropriate), buying such mixes for home use reflects poorly on your character. But it isn't only the mixes that represent moral corruption through cocoa abuse. In a cookbook I found from 1956, the peak of American culinary perfection, the ingredients for hot cocoa were: 3 TB sugar, 1 tsp corn starch, 2 tsp cocoa powder (optional), 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and beef broth (to taste). (I am recalling this from memory so I may have mixed it up with a cocktail or gelatin dessert recipe.) So for the sake of clarity in this context, "hot cocoa" describes an abomination created for people who like chocolate only in principle or suffer from Hershey's-induced Stockholm syndrome. "Hot chocolate" is a culinary delight that celebrates the cacao bean and represents the closest approximation to a drinkable chocolate bar as possible. Making Hot Chocolate Anyone who has tried to make hot chocolate from scratch knows that suspending the cocoa powder in liquid is not as simple as stirring it in. You need to first make a paste with a small amount of liquid, stirring until all the cocoa powder has been blended in. Otherwise the cocoa powder clumps up into insoluble globs, which is sure to disappoint. Here is a recipe for hot chocolate that also serves as a healthy and revitalizing tonic (I'm pretty sure it cleanses the glands, and may even purify the gall bladder of evil humors).

  • 2 tsp water
  • 2 heaping TB cocoa powder
  • 1 heaping TB sugar (more if you don't get enough sugar in your diet)

In a microwave-safe mug, mix these ingredients into a paste until no clumps of cocoa remain. Add more water in 1/4 tsp increments as needed until all the cocoa is mixed in. Fill the mug with your favorite type of milk. Heat according to your microwave's instructions--usually less than the time required to heat water because the milk will foam and overflow. (You can also do this on the stove in a sauce pan. Just stir often and don't over heat).  Stir until the paste at the bottom is completely dissolved (there will always be a bit of a treat at the bottom that you can eat with a spoon). I recommend slowly reducing the amount of sugar you add to the mix each time you make it. Eventually, like many coffee drinkers, you will begin to really appreciate the taste of chocolate by itself and find sugar to detract from the delightful flavor of cocoa. Other ingredients you may wish to add for variety include powdered ginger, cayenne pepper, and vanilla extract. I find that these complement the cocoa flavor. You can create pre-made mix that you refrigerate by just making a huge batch of the paste above. Just scoop out 2-3 TB of the mix per serving. It can be mixed hot or cold. This also works well as a glaze for cakes or topping for ice cream. A Bit about Cacao--The Super Food.  Finally a bit about cocoa. Raw and minimally-processed cocoa (or cacao) is possibly the highest food in antioxidants of any food we eat. That includes the fad foods. Just eat lots of leafy greens, chocolate, berries, whole grains, and leave the pomegranate and açaí juice for the overly-credulous.  Most commercial chocolate bars contain more fat and sugar than cocoa, and the cocoa has been so processed that it really isn't very nutritious.  Most chocolate bars are made with milk chocolate because people think they like milk chocolate better than dark chocolate. They happen to be wrong about this. Milk chocolate is actually vile and reprehensible. This is an objective fact. Much like brown rice and whole wheat flour, raw cocoa powder is more expensive than the more processed varieties. One possible reason is that, like the whole grains, it doesn't keep as well (most of the nutrition has not been removed in processing, so it has a reason to go bad), so the time to market needs to be much shorter.  I find that raw cocoa has a more robust and complex flavor that is far better than the mild cocoa powder we have grown used to. Hopefully just as coffee was able to break out of the bland mass-processed coffee blends from Maxwell House, Folger's and the like, hopefully cocoa will follow suit. Raw cocoa is sometimes available at natural-foods stores, and most of it is certified organic and fair trade. (Unsurprisingly a great deal of commercially grown cacao is grown by slaves or in slave-like conditions.)  Note that raw and organic cocoa can be ridiculously expensive. Of course, the more we buy it, the lower the cost.  Here are some places to purchase the stuff:

You can also find it at Amazon.com, but as of this publishing, it is sold there in smaller packages for a higher price per oz.