Four Hot Chocolates To Get You Through Winter

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Dear Reader, for those who have followed me on my journey driving in Sydney, I am now proud and a little embarrassed to report that I am now driving, voluntarily, in the right hand lane! For those of you that drive on the other side of the road, the right hand land is the fast lane and it was the lane that I studiously avoided for my entire driving "career." It was the lane for those fast driving confident people in a hurry and I never thought that I'd ever drive in that lane. I'd say to myself "One day I'll drive in that lane and they won't beep at me to get out of it."

I'm still on my provisional license (yes I know, it's been what, 12 years now? ;) ). It's a small victory for me, after all I still get nervous driving in tunnels and will drive longer distances to avoid them. However recently I had to go through a tunnel and I wasn't as white knuckled as I usually am. Perhaps it's a sign that I'll be able to drive in tunnels without staring from side to side bug eyed gripping the wheel.

Small victories, I know...

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I've tried to engage with all sorts of things to battle this cold weather. And the best way for a small victory over the chill is my preoccupation with making hot chocolates. Sure, a cup of hot tea is good but hot chocolates add that extra bit of warmth and richness to them that's hard to replicate in forms other than the chocolate variety. Over the last few weeks I've been experimenting with a few different types greeting Mr NQN eagerly with a cup of experimental hot chocolate every night when he comes home. These are the four favourites that have helped us get through the past few weeks.

None of these are difficult and you can make a large batch and keep it in a jug and heat it up as needed and I often use one in place of dessert. Out of the four, the one that we both loved the most was the coconut hot chocolate-it's amazing what a few thick dollops of the thick cream from the coconut top to give a hot chocolate a creamy voluptuousness. This was followed up by the salted caramel chocolate which I would say is an excellent base for the coconut or peanut butter hot chocolate. Which leads me onto the third one, one for the young or young at heart-a chocolate peanut butter hot chocolate, like a liquid version of a peanut butter cup, just because I know you love chocolate and peanut butter just as much as I do...

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The last one is a more sophisticated offering, an Italian hot chocolate where I just used some Amedei Toscano Black 63% chocolate given to me by the lovely Tania. This is a dark hot chocolate and one for adults-it could even stand a splash of your favourite liqueur too. It's thick, dark and handsome-all things you might want in a hot chocolate if not a spouse (the thick part I mean) and is so rich that it could even take the place of an espresso at the end of a dinner party evening.

So tell me Dear Reader, which hot chocolate would be your choice? And are you a right lane driver or do you keep in the left lane? And do you feel that everyone drives faster than you?

Coconut Hot Chocolate

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I cannot rave about this hot chocolate enough and yes this is one of those pushy recipes that I urge you to make. Remember those Golden Rough patties from your childhood? Have you tried one recently? I have and it was sadly quite disappointing but I would propose that this might match your childhood memory of them. This hot chocolate would also be delicious made with a white chocolate-just reduce the amount of sugar because white chocolate is quite sweet already. I love the white chocolate version just before bed time.

  • 300ml/10.6 fl ozs. milk

  • 5 tablespoons of the thickest coconut cream from the top of the tin or container

  • 50g/1.7 ozs dark chocolate, roughly chopped

  • 50g/1.7 ozs milk chocolate, roughly chopped

  • 2 tablespoons white sugar

  • a few drops of coconut essence

  • Whipped cream and toasted coconut to serve (optional)

Step 1 - Whisk the coconut cream with the milk and place it in a small saucepan and heat it gently along with the chocolate and sugar. Add in a few drops of the coconut essence to taste. Serve warm and add whipped cream and toasted coconut if desired.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

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I have a stash of Reese's peanut butter cups in my fridge for peanut butter emergencies. A friend once told me that when she went on a diet program, her guidance counselors told her that peanut butter was the number one food that people craved and missed. I get that and have been known to eat peanut butter and honey straight from the jar with a spoon. This hot chocolate is inspired by one late night visit to the pantry.

Serves 2

  • 50g/1.7 ozs dark chocolate, roughly chopped

  • 50g/1.7 ozs milk chocolate, roughly chopped

  • 100ml/3.5 fl ozs. cream

  • 300ml/10.6 fl ozs. milk

  • 3 teaspoons smooth peanut butter (or more if you really like it peanut buttery)

  • 2 teaspoons runny honey

  • Pinch of salt (optional)

Step 1 - In a small saucepan, add the two types of chocolate, cream and milk and heat and whisk until melted but not boiling. Add the peanut butter and honey and swirl to melt and combine. Add a little pinch of salt and serve.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

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This one's a touch harder than the rest because you make a caramel which can be a daunting prospect if you've never done it before. Once you make your first caramel it's dead easy and you just need to observe two rules: never leave caramel unattended and be patient (I've learned this through experience). And I'd gently suggest to double or even triple this recipe because it makes an excellent base for the two hot chocolates above-you can just add the coconut cream and essence for the coconut hot chocolate or you can just swirl the peanut butter through it for the peanut butter hot chocolate.

Serves 2

  • 40g/1.5ozs caster or superfine sugar

  • 40ml/1.5 fl ozs water

  • 90ml/3ozs pure cream

  • 50g/1.7 ozs dark chocolate, roughly chopped

  • 50g/1.7 ozs milk chocolate, roughly chopped

  • 350ml/12.36 fl ozs. milk

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more according to taste)

Step 1 - Place the sugar and water in a heavy based saucepan. Stir on low heat until the sugar melts and then turn the heat to high and then boil without stirring until you get a caramel-be patient as it may take more than five minutes (this is a note to myself as much as anyone else and don't leave unattended). Once the syrup starts to brown, turn down the heat to low and carefully add the cream-it may spit so be careful, especially if the cream is very cold but it will crackle only for a few seconds. Then whisk the cream and caramel together until any solid pieces of caramel are melted and you have a smooth caramel.

2.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate to the pan, stirring until melted. Add the milk and salt and whisk over a low heat until smooth and combined.

Italian Hot Chocolate

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This is darkly gorgeous stuff and really for people that exclusively eat dark chocolate and eschew any milk or white chocolate. I got the idea for adding cornflour from Rebecca's blogpost where she adds it to her hot chocolate and I thought what a clever idea it was to make it that much thicker.

Serves 2 in demitasse cups

  • 100g/3.5ozs dark chocolate

  • 1/3 cup milk

  • 1/3 cup water

  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar (or more, depending on how dark your chocolate is)

  • 2 teaspoons cornflour

Step 1 - Place the milk in a small saucepan along with the dark chocolate and sugar and heat on low heat. Stir until melted. Stir the cornflour with the water and add this to the chocolatey milk mixture stirring on low heat until it thickens. Serve in demitasse cups.