Tuesday December 7, 2010
It's a Marshmallow World no, really. marshmallows!
At this moment, outside my window, a thick blanket of snow still covers the ground. It seems all too long since Lexingtonians enjoyed a properly snowy winter. A few years ago it didn’t snow at all and last year though it rained a lot, the temperature never dropped enough for real snow. The rain taunted us, leaving the skies dreary and the ground sodden. When a snowflake did somehow manage to form, it soon disappeared in the mushy streets and fields.
This year, we had snow on the ground the morning after Thanksgiving and a few times since. I love it. Love it. In no small part because, “it’s a marshmallow world in the winter.”
Or, at least, my mug of hot chocolate is a marshmallow world, because without marshmallows hot chocolate would just seem like a sad little cup of thin ganache.
For me, snow and hot chocolate go hand in hand. Snow here in Kentucky comes infrequently enough that I can justify a batch of hot chocolate for every snowfall. If I lived in Minnesota where my best friend resides, I doubt I’d break out the chocolate bars and cream every time someone shook up that particular snow globe. Although, then again, I might. I kind of think she does…
For me, the perfect hot chocolate has four criteria:
a) it should contain three or four kinds of chocolate but
b) even so, it needs a strong note of vanilla and
c) at least two homemade marshmallows melting on top
bq. d) enough richness and body to stand on its own as a dessert
If it fails to meet those standards it’s just hot cocoa, which I enjoy perfectly well, but shouldn’t be confused with hot chocolate. Hot cocoa serves as winter’s workhorse: a sweet pick-me-up that warms frosty fingers but not so rich that you can’t indulge in a second mug or three. Cocoa has its place in the recipe repertoire, and so must a proper hot chocolate.
A real hot chocolate, or “drinking chocolate” as some have tried to rebrand it, should feel luxurious. Should slow you down. Satisfy your deepest chocolate cravings, leaving no room for seconds.
To that end, I use 3 kinds of dark chocolate as well as cocoa in my hot chocolate. Of course you can make a great hot chocolate with only one, but as in apple pie, using a blend creates a more complex, alluring flavor.
Each chocolate contributes a unique flavor, whether a note of fruity citrus to brighten the mix, a robust coffee-like strength to deepen it, or a strong blast of classic chocolate; using a blend balances the strengths and weaknesses of each. Some chocolates which I wouldn’t especially enjoy eating out of hand nevertheless have a good flavor that plays well with others in the pot of hot chocolate.
Using such a wide variety of chocolates also expands your understanding of chocolate, since you have a chance to compare them side by side. It helps you learn what you like, what you don’t. A lot of people have asked me what I like to buy and use, and that’s tough to answer.
Partially because what I like and what you like may differ significantly, partially because I have access to a lot of chocolates available only through restaurant providers and friends in the industry, the straight answer to “what chocolate do you like to buy?” isn’t necessarily useful to the asker.
So as a roundabout answer, I thought I’d give a list of very good quality chocolates and links to their manufacturers, if you’d like to learn what’s what. You can find all of these in Lexington. some at The Good Foods Coop and others at Ye Old Liquor Barn, among other places. And if you can find them in Lexington, undoubtedly, you can find them throughout the United States.
So, in no particular order:
The common thread running between these chocolates, as you might notice, is their high percentage of cocoa mass. I choose dark chocolates like these because gram for gram, they contain more chocolate. The lower the percentage, the higher the sugar or milk/dairy content making them inefficient vehicles for delivering chocolate flavor since you could also call a 60% chocolate “40% not chocolate.”
(Update, 1/8/10: My recipe for the molasses cookies found in the background, here! )
2 comments and counting
Dec 07, 2010 · 12:03 PM
I’ve just realise I don’t have a bag of marshmallow in my pantry. I have to store it for the winter now
· Tes · http://tesathome.com
Dec 08, 2010 · 7:56 PM
You’d better stock up now! Although, perhaps it’s not so cold where you live right now? Cheers!