I love the holiday season. I really do. The smell of pine resin in the air, the crackle of the wood stove, the cocktail parties and white lights in city trees and mulled cider. I love wearing cardigans and scarves, donning snuggly boots (these beauties are en route as I type!) and flannel p.j.’s at night, and listening to the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Most of all, though, what I love about this time of year are all of the moments spent indoors.
Right now, I’m nestled inside, and have been for the past four days ever since a flurry of winter weather on Sunday blanketed the one mile stretch of dirt road leading to my forest-situated home. We have an all-wheel drive vehicle, but our house rests atop a knoll, making the drive down a risk in icy treachery. And so, indoors we remain, until warmer weather gives us the all-clear signal.
While we wait, we engage in all of the things that make wintertime so cozy. We listen to lengthy podcasts on NPR. We make meals that take time to simmer and sizzle. We bake cookies. And we drink hot chocolate. Are there any two words more lovely when placed aside one another? Hot. Chocolate. It’s making your toes warm and your heart smile just thinking about it, isn’t it? Well, if it makes you happy, rest assured it makes everyone else happy too. As such, today’s “Small Measures” proposes giving a holiday gift of a hot chocolate-themed basket.
CLICK HERE for the rest of the post (and 2 homemade hot chocolate recipes!) after the jump!
Couple a batch of my “Hot, Hot Chocolate” (recipe follows) with some marshmallows (either whip up some of your own-Karen Solomon’s book Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It has a fantastic recipe-or order some of the sensational selections over at Whimsy & Spice ), chocolate-dipped cinnamon sticks or candy canes (à la this site ), and ceramic mugs (I love handcrafted, timeless pieces like the ones pictured from local ceramicist John Ransmeier; you can also find a wealth of gorgeous ceramic goods on Etsy). Place all these items in a basket or wrap them up with raffia in a lovely new kitchen cloth or yard of fabric (burlap would be cool, too). Insto, presto. You’ve got a gift that’s easy to assemble, affordable to amass, and destined to delight.
Hot, Hot Cocoa Mix
Yield: 4 cups.
-2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
-2 tsp. cinnamon
-1 tsp. ground ginger
-1 tsp. cayenne powder
-1 tsp. nutmeg
-2 tsp. sea salt
-Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
-Store in an airtight container, or divide into smaller portions for gift giving.
-Include a note to the recipient indicating to mix 2 Tbsp. mixture with 1 c. warmed milk per desired serving.
Also, if you love hot chocolate and need a go-to recipe to brew up for your nearest and dearest, try this one. Crafted by Hubs and I one recent frigid evening, this isn’t for the chocolate timid. Richer than your basic hot chocolate, this version invites gentle, contemplative sipping instead of speedy gulps. Whole milk paired with both cocoa powder and a high cocoa content baking chocolate result in a beverage that coats the tongue, warms the belly, and satisfies the soul.
Hedonistic Hot Chocolate
Yield: 3 cups.
-3 cups whole milk
-4 Tbsp cocoa powder (we used Dagoba)
-2 1/2 ounces baking chocolate (we used Green & Black’s)
-3 Tbsp sugar
-1 Tbsp honey
Yummy optional add-ins:
-1/4 cup Kahlua
-A pinch of fresh nutmeg
-A pinch of cinnamon
-1/4 tsp orange extract
-Warm the milk in a pot over medium-low heat.
-Add all of the remaining ingredients (add the Kahlua just before serving if you want to retain some of the alcohol, if using). Whisk to combine.
-Continue to whisk over low heat for the next 15 minutes, until perfectly creamy and slightly reduced.
Serve and enjoy.What about you? Got any hot chocolate secrets you care to divulge? Oh, and if you’re ever in Asheville, be sure to check out my friends Dan & Jael Rattigan’s “liquid truffles” at their French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Or, should you get a chocolate hankering while in the City of Lights, visit the famous Parisian cafe Angelina. At the heavy, repeated suggestion of my in-laws, Hubs and I dropped in during our honeymoon for a pot of their decadent delight. Served on a silver tray with the hot cream in a separate pitcher, Angelina’s “chocolat L’Africain” is not to be missed. This is the stuff of legends, folks. Otherwise, bottoms up as you bundle up! -Ashley