Sunday, October 5, 2014

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix


I talked this Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix up a lot on my Facebook page back in February and post. So everyone is so happy today!

This mix came about after I read the ingredients on a canister of commercial hot chocolate mix my daughter received as a gift. Gah! I make a lot of my mixes from scratch, so I knew there had to be a way to make a homemade hot chocolate mix that was tasty and didn't have all the extra semi-food and not-food ingredients.

Of course my first stop was Pinterest (good grief, where would we all be??). There were lots of recipes for homemade mixes, some of which I could tell by reading the recipe I wouldn't like, and some of which I actually tried. I wasn't super impressed with the ones I tried, and more important, my kids weren't super impressed.

So I set off to come up with a mix that I liked, my kids liked, and was easy to put together. Little did I know the quest I was creating for myself!

One of my biggest issues with the recipes I tried was the addition of chocolate chips to the mix, presumably to give the finished product a more rich, creamy taste. But I hated the chocolate chips because 1. they never dissolved all the way and the ones that made it into your mouth felt so weird on your tongue, and the ones that didn't make it into your mouth left an off-putting sludge in the bottom of the mug, and 2. they made the hot chocolate taste too much like chocolate chips.

Another issue had to do with the type of unsweetened cocoa to use. Some recipes were adamant that you only use Dutch-processed cocoa, and some recipes just used regular, raw cocoa. Did it matter? If so, why did it matter?

And yes another issue was the non-fat dry milk. Was one brand better than the others?

////I know. Why can't I just mix up the mix and be happy? Why do I always have to have so many questions? I have no answer for you other than I think it is a sickness of some kind.////

I don't know how much you want to hear about my experimenting, so I'll just say I mixed up many, many batches of hot chocolate mix, and had at least two taste tests with my fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how good the samples were) family members. I came to these conclusions:

1. No chocolate chips. Doesn't matter if they are regular size, mini size, or pulverized-in-the-food-processor size. No chocolate chips. There are always some that don't melt all the way and I didn't like the flavor the chips added.

2. Dutch processed cocoa. Dutch processed cocoa is much more fine than raw cocoa (Hershey) so it dissolves better. The flavor is also better because of the way it is processed. You'll find there are many brands of Dutch processed cocoa; other than me telling you that you don't want a blend (Dutched and raw), and I recommend against buying the cheapest Dutch processed, you're a bit on your own choosing which one to use because it will come down to personal taste and how much money you are willing to spend. I tried several brands--from local stores and ordered from Amazon--and ended up being happy with a reasonably priced bag of Callebaut Royal Dutch Processed Cocoa I found at a baking and cooking super-store in Salt Lake City called Gygi.

3. Country Fresh Non-Fat Dry Milk. I actually can't take much credit for this one. My husband did a lot of research into dry milk so he could mix some up each day to keep in the fridge at work to use with his coffee and tea, and he found that Country Fresh brand was the best. I did try Carnation brand dry milk, and found it to be lacking compared to the Country Fresh. If you can't find canisters of Country Fresh in your stores you can buy it on Amazon.

4. The sweetness is up to you. When it comes to your own mix, the amount of sugar you'll use depends on how sweet you want your hot chocolate. Predictably, my kids liked more sugar than I did.

5. The cornstarch is important. Without the cornstarch in the mix your hot chocolate will not have the mouth-feel you're used to, especially if you're using hot water instead of milk.

6. Weigh and Sift. I've talked about weighing baking ingredients before. I also suggest you weigh these ingredients so you can have the same results each time you make up a batch of mix. I also suggest you sift the ingredients through a fine mesh sieve as you add them to your bowl--especially the cocoa, powdered sugar, and cornstarch--to make sure you are able to completely incorporate everything together.

7. Not Swiss Miss. This isn't going to taste like most commercial mixes, which is a good thing.

8. Add-ins are awesome. Feel free to add marshmallows or cinnamon or vanilla powder or stir it with a candy cane.

9. Easy to make it your own. Next to controlling the ingredients, the great thing about homemade mixes is that you can adjust them to suit your personal tastes and the tastes of your family. If you want the mix sweeter or less sweet, simply adjust the sugar. If you want a stronger hot chocolate, increase the amount of mix you add to the hot water or milk.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

2 oz (about 3/4 cup) Country Fresh Non-Fat powdered milk
2 3/4 oz (about 3/4 cup) powdered sugar
1 3/8 oz (about 1/3 cup) Dutch process unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 oz (about 2 teaspoons) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon table salt

Using a fine mesh sieve, sift each ingredient into a medium bowl; whisk together until combined very well. Store in an air-tight container. Shake container before using.

Makes about 2 cups mix, or 6 servings hot chocolate.

***To make a cup of hot chocolate: Shake the container and measure 1/3 cup mix into a mug. Add 1 1/3 cups very hot water and stir very well until the mix is dissolved.

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