We can't help it. Once the cooler weather arrives, we crave hot cocoa with the same intensity that we crave a cold beer during barbecue season.
There is, after all, something intensely comforting about drinking a warm mug of nature's most perfect food — chocolate! Add a dollop of freshly whipped and lightly sweetened cream and it doesn't get much better.
Or maybe it can. To help take our hot cocoa game to the next level, we decided to see how many deliciously fresh ways we could doctor a mug of basic cocoa. Turns out, the possibilities are pretty inspiring (and tempting). So we picked our top 10 to share. Here are 10 fresh combinations to consider adding to your hot cocoa.
10 FRESH WAYS WITH HOT COCOA:
Start with your favorite purchased hot cocoa mix, or make our hot cocoa. For homemade, heat 1 cup of whole milk until steaming. Sift together 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon sugar. Whisk into the hot milk along with 1/4 cup milk chocolate bits until completely smooth. Add any of the following and garnish with whipped cream:
— Almond praline: Use brown sugar in place of the white sugar. Stir in 1 teaspoon almond extract.
— Hazelnut: Whisk in 2 tablespoons chocolate hazelnut spread (such as Nutella).
— Grasshopper: Whisk in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon peppermint extract, to taste.
— Raspberry: Strain 1 tablespoon raspberry preserves through a fine mesh strainer. Discard any solids, then whisk the raspberry puree into the hot cocoa.
— Chili: Stir in a pinch of cayenne and a pinch of cinnamon.
— Gingerbread: Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of molasses and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice blend.
— Coconut-lime: Add the finely grated zest of 1/2 lime and 2 tablespoons of cream of coconut.
— Honey-pepper: Use 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey in place of the sugar. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.
— Peanut butter-banana: Mash 1/2 of a very ripe banana until smooth. Whisk into the hot cocoa along with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
— Vanilla bean cheesecake: Scrape the seeds from a 1/2 vanilla bean pod into the cocoa. Transfer to a blender, add 2 tablespoons cream cheese then puree until smooth.