Today's recipe is for hot chocolate and cookies. Because this is "chocolate week" the cookies do have cocoa nibs in them because I like the way they play off of the pecans but they could easily be left out or substituted with finely chopped bittersweet or milk chocolate. Both recipes today come from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich. I will also add one more recipe for a easy hot chocolate mix that provides what many would consider a more familiar hot chocolate and perfect for a quick anytime dessert or for those cold nights while camping!
This recipe, as with all recipes this week, really showcases the chocolate itself. This is called a rich hot chocolate because of the flavor of the chocolate coming through, not necessarily rich in fat or sugar. My husband didn't particularly care for this recipe, but I liked it. It uses half water and half milk with bittersweet chocolate so there is nothing standing in the way of the chocolate flavor. The water also keeps it very light and the milk could easily be substituted with any non dairy option like soy milk or almond milk. If you are looking for something richer you could also use all milk in place of the water. As recommended in the recipe, I made this ahead of time and kept it in the refrigerator and then before serving I reheated it using the steaming wand on my espresso machine. It would be equally as good consumed right away or you could easily reheat it on the stove or in the microwave.
Rich Hot Chocolate (from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich)
6 oz of your favorite chocolate (the flavor and sweetness will be determine the flavor and sweetness of the final hot chocolate)
1 1/2 cups boiling water (you could replace 1/2 the water with espresso or use strong coffee)
1 1/2 cups milk
Place the chocolate in a small pan, and pour half of the boiling water over the chocolate. Whisk until it is smooth and the chocolate is completely melted -if you have an immersion blender (hand blender) this would be a great place to use it. Pour in the rest of the water and mix completely, add the milk and over medium heat warm the mixture. You don't want to go much above 180 degrees which means it should never come to a boil, so make sure you keep an eye on it. At this point you could serve it immediately or let it cool and store in the refrigerator for up to a few days.
Hot Chocolate Mix
This is a culmination of a few different recipes I found and it makes for a great cup of hot chocolate. By making your own mix you are able to control how chocolaty or sweet you like it. This could also make a great gift packaged in an attractive jar and maybe accompanied by some homemade marshmallows? (I'll post those at another time). This recipe makes enough to fill a quart jar so if you don't want that much, feel free to cut it in half.
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar (or you could easily use regular sugar and just grind it further in the food processor before adding the rest of the ingredients)
1 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cornstarch
2 cups powdered milk
Optional- You can use all together or just one or two of them....
1 cup malted milk powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 TBS instant espresso
The key to making this is using a food-processor or blender to grind everything together, it helps to make sure everything is properly mixed and ground so it easily dissolves in the water. If you are using granulated sugar, pulse that in the food processor until it resembles powdered sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse or blend until completely mixed. To make a cup of hot chocolate, put 1/4 cup of the mix in a cup with 1 cup of boiling water. That will make a pretty strong hot chocolate so feel free to adjust to taste.
For Peppermint Hot Chocolate: Add a few drops of peppermint oil or extract to the hot chocolate
For Spiced Hot Chocolate: There are all sorts of spices you could add to the mix. The following is a little spice mix that I keep on hand and add a pinch to my cup before mixing in the hot water.
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of finely ground pepper
Nibby Pecan Cookies (from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich)
1 cup (3 1/2 oz) pecans (or any other nut you prefer)
2 sticks (1/2 lb) butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 rounded tsp salt (use a good quality sea salt)
1 tbs + 1 tsp bourbon*
1 1/2 tsp vanilla**
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
2 cups all purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour with great results)
*While you can easily leave out the bourbon if you prefer not to use alcohol, it brings a great flavor to the cookies and is worth going out to get a small bottle.
**As recommended, I tried grinding an old dry vanilla bean I had and used rounded 1/4 tsp of vanilla powder the 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. But to be honest I'm not sure the flavor made much of a difference.
Pre heat the oven to 325 F. Toast the pecans until they darken but more importantly you can smell them. Let them cool and chop finely. Turn the oven up to 350 F.
Cream the butter with the sugar and salt until smooth and creamy but not too light in color. The more you cream the batter the more it will spread in the oven. Add the vanilla and bourbon and continue to mix until it's creamy and emulsified. Add the flour, mix briefly and then add in the cocoa nibs and pecans. At this point you have two different ways to shape the cookies. You can form it into logs and slice and bake (works particularly well if you want to freeze the dough because you can slice it while still frozen and put back whatever dough you didn't use in the freezer for the next time), or as in the picture you can roll out the dough and cut it into desired shapes. If you choose to slice and bake, form it into a log and if you are rolling out the dough, divide it in half and flatten the dough to 1/2 an inch thick and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours). Then slice the cookies or roll them out to about 1/4" thick, making sure to add flour as needed on the table to prevent them from sticking. If the dough gets to warm let it firm up in the refrigerator especially after gathering the scraps before re-rolling. Place the cookies on a sheet pan at least 1 1/2 inches apart and bake at 350 F until the edges are golden. Let them sit on the sheet pan for a few minutes to firm up and then transfer to a cooling rack. These will last quite a while in an air tight container.
My spice mix I like to add to hot chocoalte