For many people across the world, hot chocolate is probably something that takes them back to their childhood. For many Indians like me, it was just another one of those things we read about in our story books. And if like me, you were from the Southern part of India where most part of it is in the tropical climate zone, you really don’t have chilly days or nights that seem perfect for a hot chocolate drink.
In the event that we children did need something hot on a comparatively colder rainy or December/ January night, we got glasses of frothy and sweet hot milk and occasionally as a treat it would be well flavoured with Horlicks or Bournvita. And if you had a bad cough or a sorethroat, your hot milk would be heavily tinged with turmeric.
My first experience of hot chocolate, which was many years ago, wasn’t exactly the best one. It happened during a short stop-over in London on one of our once-in-two-years-summer- vacations to India. I was somewhere about 13 years old and London on that day was grey, raining and heavily overcast and just the sort of occasion for something hot. We had just checked into our hotel, a small quaint place somewhere in Bayswater and we were tired after a long flight and had started feeling the cold quite a bit. The kitchen/ dining room wasn’t open and we weren’t up to stepping out right away. The person at the reception pointed me to a vending machine that apparently sold drinks, both hot and cold.
One of the panels on the thing mentioned hot chocolate and since I wanted something hot and chocolate is always an option, I thought I would go for that. That was the first time I has ever come face to face with a machine that sold anything, and I was at the age where the last thing I wanted to do was to embarrass myself by asking for help because I would have to admit that I wasn’t sophisticated enough to know how to make that thing hand me a cup of chocolate!
After about 20 minutes of fighting with an unresponsive machine I finally climbed up the stairs to our rooms triumphantly holding a plastic cup of hot chocolate much in the manner of a trophy! We all know what hot chocolate (or any drink for that matter) that comes out of a machine would taste like. I didn’t know much about how hot chocolate ought to have tasted back then but I can remember not being particularly impressed by that drink.
To me, the ultimate hot chocolate must hot of course, and rich, creamy, a little spicy and all about chocolate without being overly sweet. Like any other hot drink it tastes best when it’s cold outside. So it’s the perfect time for hot chocolate right now.
I don’t know how it is in other parts of the world, but here a store bought hot chocolate mix is invariably an imported product and therefore on the expensive side. A hot chocolate mix, however, is one of those things which are pretty easy to make at home. The best part of home-made stuff is that you can customize it to suit your tastes. It’s also a great gift to give, not just during Christmas but at any time of the year really. After all, who would refuse some good chocolate? I know I wouldn’t!
There is a slight difference between a hot cocoa mix and a hot chocolate mix. The former contains only cocoa, but the latter usually has chocolate as well in it. My recipe has both chocolate and cocoa in it. The chocolate in the mix makes for a richer and creamier drink while the cocoa gives a more intense chocolate flavour.
I’ve spiced upmy hot chocolate mix a bit, giving it an Indian twist by adding mix of chai masala and garam masala. If this is not to your taste, feel free to substitute it with your choice of spices. There’s no powdered milk in my recipe, so you can either mix up your hot chocolate in hot milk or water, whichever way you prefer it.
Do use the best quality chocolate and cocoa powder you can and your hot chocolate mix will be all the better for it.
You can also make variations of this Hot Chocolate Mix. If you want a lower calorie mix, then leave out the chocolate and use only the cocoa, but add 2 tsp cornstarch and you’ll have a Hot Cocoa Mix.
If you don’t like spice in your Hot Chocolate, you can leave out the spices but maybe you can add cinnamon to it instead.
You could also leave out this spice mix and replace that with a little red chilli/ cayenne powder.