Hot Cocoa Mix

Most people just don't get hot cocoa.  They think you buy powder in a container and add hot water. Yuk.
Have you ever looked at the ingredients on a typical "Just add water" Hot Cocoa Mix? Here, let me show you:
Pre Packaged Hot Cocoa Ingredients

Nasty right?
So how do you make your own? First - your mix should just be cocoa, sugar, and vanilla. That's it. That way you add fresh, warm milk.
Now, what type of Cocoa Powder?  There are two basic types. Natural Cocoa Powder and Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder. For hot cocoa, you want the Dutch Processed (sometimes called "Dutched.")
What is Dutch Process? It's when they wash the cocoa with a (natural) alkaline solution to reduce the acidity. The rule of thumb is that you can use regular cocoa if your baking it with something that will temper the acidity for you - like baking soda. Otherwise, use Dutch process.
Obviously, Hot Cocoa has no Baking Soda. Or lemon. Or vinegar...  So use Dutch.
What brand? I'm partial to Valrhona or other high-end cocoa. They usually have more cocoa butter in them and a stronger, smoother, better flavor. I stay away from the lower end brands.
You can mix this up in advance and store it for at least a year. If not more. Just keep it in a cool dry place.

Instructions:
In a nutshell, it's 4 parts sugar to 3 parts cocoa. Mix and Store. The amounts in the ingredient list give you just over 3 cups mix.
Most people say that you should use vanilla sugar. Although easy to make (just drop a vanilla bean in two cups of sugar for a few weeks) - That adds two weeks to the time table. We take a short cut approach here. Just add the vanilla bean to the mix - and make sure you shake it around before using it.
To prepare the vanilla bean, slice the bean down the back to expose the really tiny seeds on the inside. scrape out the seeds and mix with the cocoa and sugar. Place the remainder of the whole bean in the cocoa mix as well.
Make sure you mix the seeds into the mix. The reason you need to mix it around is that cocoa is denser than sugar - and most of the vanilla flavor will be absorbed by the cocoa and sugar closest to the bean. Mixing it up helps to distribute the flavor.

Making A Mug: Add 2 heaping teaspoons to an empty mug. Then add enough boiling water to turn it into a syrup (about a tablespoon - think the consistency of maple syrup.) Add any Vanilla or Peppermint drops (see below) and top with warm milk and stir.
Everyone likes a different amount of cocoa mix to milk ratio - so you'll have to experiment to find out what makes you happy.

Ingredients:
Item Amount
Main Ingredients:
Dutch Process Cocoa 1½ cups
Sugar, Organic 2 cups
Vanilla Bean about 4"1 each

Tips:
Obviously, serve with homemade whipped cream. Don't buy that prefab stuff in a can. Vanilla Beans are now crazy expensive. But 5 drops or an 1/8 tsp in each mug does the trick. Peppermint Hot Cocoa?  Just add 3-4 drops of Peppermint extract to each mug when stirring.

Low-Fat Options:
Surprisingly, Hot Cocoa has virtually no fat! It all depends on the milk that you use. So choose skim or 1% to cut down the fat.

Image courtesy of Mike Kniec

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