Are you one of those people who starts sneaking Christmas music during the week of Thanksgiving or has their decorations waiting in the wings so that as soon as the turkey leaves the table, Christmas cheer spreads throughout the house? I am not one of those people. In fact, as I sit typing this, we are a full 4 days post-Thanksgiving and I have not even thought about Christmas decorations. I have, however, made this hot chocolate which I feel is a very wintry thing to do and therefore exempts me from thinking about Christmas decorations for at least another 3 days.
About a month ago, my husband went on a work trip to the Netherlands. Before he left, he asked if there was any specific thing I wanted him to bring back as a souvenir and I made a request for Dutched-process cocoa powder*. (I know that you can also buy that in the States, but I feel like it’s a little more exciting coming directly from Holland.) Two weeks later, he returned from his trip and began unloading his suitcase like it was Santa’s toy sack, pulling out treat after treat. Finally, he retrieves a large plastic bag full of a brown powder, knotted at the top. Apparently, in the small village that they were staying in, he wasn’t able to find Dutched-process cocoa powder in the store so he went into the local bakery and asked if they knew where he could find some. The sweet bakery workers sold some of their supply and I got 500 grams of cocoa powder for 2 euros! And I am pretty sure that it tastes better than all other cocoa powders. :)
For this hot chocolate recipe, I just added lavender to my favorite Bon Appetite hot chocolate, because if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. I steeped the lavender in the milk before making the hot chocolate, giving the finished cocoa a slightly floral touch. If you don’t have lavender, try subbing it out for another aromatic- rose petals or an herb would work beautifully. It’s the perfect accompaniment to dropping temperatures and all of those Hallmark Christmas movies.
Lavender Hot Chocolate
Yield: 4 servings
3 cups whole milk
1 tsp lavender
3 tbsp dutched process cocoa powder
6 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
3 tbsp sugar
Sweetened whipped cream, lavender, shaved chocolate for serving
In a medium saucepan, combine milk and lavender and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover with a lid, and allow to steep for 20-30 minutes. Strain milk to remove lavender and set aside.
Bring 3/4 cup warm to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk in cocoa powder until there are no lumps, add milk, and return to a simmer.
Whisk in chocolate and sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes.
Divide between mugs, top with whipped cream, lavender, and chocolate shavings and serve.
*A note on Dutched-process cocoa powder: Cocoa powder is traditionally an acidic ingredient and has a naturally sharp, almost citrusy taste (and it means that it needs to be paired with baking soda in order to counteract the acidity). Dutched-process cocoa powder is cocoa powder that has been alkalized to a pH level of 7. It has a more rounded flavor and doesn’t need to be balanced with baking soda. What you are making will depend on the type of cocoa powder you use (sometimes it is a matter of chemical reactions and sometimes just personal taste preference). For this recipe, I chose Dutched-process cocoa powder to mellow out the flavor of the hot chocolate. You can choose any cocoa powder that you like, but since it is the star in the recipe, I recommend using a higher quality cocoa. If you are interested in reading more about the difference between natural cocoa powder and Dutched-process cocoa powder, Serious Eats has a great article on it here.