Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hot Cocoa Toddy

Cuppa Hot Cocoa Toddy with foamy top
Cow's Milk makes Best Foam Top

Recipe inspired by Don


Quite a few years back my friend Don went on a noble quest to create the perfect hot cocoa for grown-ups. In the interest of (culinary) science, Don experimented with all manner of spirits. He tried traditional hot toddy components like brandy and rum. Then, on to assorted liqueurs like Grand Marnier (orange), Crème de Menthe (mint), and Kahlua (coffee). After much experimentation, he and his wife Barbara concluded that Frangelico, the smooth hazelnut liqueur, compliments cocoa best. Frangelico’s flavor hints at cinnamon, vanilla, and chocolate along with hazelnut. This tasty but not overpowering blend is ideal in hot cocoa.

Cuppa Hot Cocoa Toddy with Spoonful of Cream
Also Good with Whipped Cream
One of the marvelous things about hot cocoa is that it can be made with any kind of milk and still be satisfying, as long as you use enough chocolate. I typically use nonfat milk plus a few tablespoons of something creamier, like half and half. Today I’m using nonfat soymilk and a bit of fat-free half and half, because that’s what’s in the fridge. I had my doubts about this combination, but it came out chocolatey-fabulous! The foamy bubbles on the top were a bit weak, and would have been better if I’d used milk with some fat. Or, I could have added a dollop of whipped cream/topping or a few mini-marshmallows to the top instead (if I had them). Don is big on the mini-marshmallows, citing his scientific evidence that they melt more evenly than regular-sized. I’m a whipped cream girl, but usually forgo the topping to save sugar and fat calories. With plenty of powdered cocoa in the mix I don’t miss it.

Pan of Cocoa Being Whipped up into foam
Thank you Lee, for the Cool Chocolate Whipper
My favorite powdered cocoa is Hershey’s, the same stuff Mom used when I was a kid. This natural cocoa powder originated in an even more historical era than my childhood, as it was first made back in 1894. There are plenty of Dutch processed alternatives, but the alkalizing process reduces healthful flavanol antioxidants, and I’m not convinced that the flavor is superior. The alternatives can also be pricey. In 2012 Hershey committed to using 100% fair trade certified cocoa by 2020 – not just in their cocoa powder, but in all of their chocolate products. In the meantime, they support literacy, agricultural, and education programs in west African cocoa-producing communities. And their customer service reps are friendly and knowledgeable. So I’m sticking with ‘em.

Chocolate in Pan
Stir till Consistent in Color Before Heating
Of course, you can choose to make this cocoa without Frangelico. It’s best flavor-wise to substitute ¼ tsp. of vanilla extract for the jigger of liqueur in each cup, and perhaps add a extra spoonful or so of sugar. Note that there is a trace of alcohol in the extract. You could try this recipe with a little alcohol-free peppermint extract, cinnamon, or other additions. Or feel free to perform your own research on alcohol-based toddy ingredients. Good science, as you know, relies upon quantified duplication of results.

Frangelico bottle, Cocoa box, and Mexican chocolate whipper
Active Ingredients & Tool
Hot Cocoa Toddy
serves 2

¼ cup Hershey’s powdered cocoa
¼ cup evaporated cane juice or other sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup water
2 cups milk of your choice
2 - 4 tbsp. cream or half-and-half (optional)
2 jiggers (¼ cup) Frangelico OR ½ tsp. vanilla extract
Mini-marshmallows or whipped cream (optional)
Extra sugar (if not using marshmallows or Frangelico)

Put cocoa, sugar, and salt in saucepan. Add water slowly, stirring until mixture is uniform in color. Heat on medium to medium-high, stirring constantly, until it just starts to boil (very tiny bubbles).

To prevent burning, lower heat if necessary to keep mixture just under boiling. Stir constantly and cook for about 2 minutes, or until dry ingredients are completely dissolved and mixture is glossy. Remove from heat.

Add milk a little at a time, stirring in with spoon. Stir in half-and-half. Return pan to medium-high heat. Beat with whisk or Mexican chocolate beater to make foam if desired. (Or stir with wooden spoon and beat with rotary beater after heating if you prefer.) Heat till just under the boiling point, when cocoa is very hot and steamy.

Heat up your mugs in the microwave. About 1 – 1½ minute for 2 mugs will do it. This prevents your hot cocoa from getting cold before you drink it, particularly since you’re adding cool liqueur.

Ladle hot cocoa into 2 mugs. Add 1 jigger (2 tbsp.) or ¼ tsp. vanilla to each mug. Taste and add extra spoonful of sugar if desired (not necessary with soymilk or Frangelico options). Stir and top with mini-marshmallows or whipped cream if desired.

Two Mugs of Cocoa Toddy with Vanilla and Frangelico
His and Hers: You Guess Which is Which


  1. Have you ever tried chocolate extract for any of your recipes? I just bought some from Shoppers for a cupcake recipe. Wondering what else I could do with it.

  2. Thanks, Christine, I had forgotten about chocolate extract. I used to use it in college to make low-cal milkshakes. David Lebovitz adds 1 tsp. to "almost any chocolate cake, cookie, brownie, or ice cream mixture" that he makes, either in place of vanilla extract, or in addition to it. Seems like it would be good in chocolate puddings as well.

  3. DL's choco extract link is

  4. A little Irish whiskey is a good thing, too!

    1. I'll add this to my own scientific research this weekend. Thanks, Jodi!

  5. In college we used peppermint schnapps in our cocoa. Anything to warm up those cold Pittsburgh nights.