What’s the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate? Chocolate is made with both cocoa solids AND cocoa butter, but cocoa powder has much of the cocoa butter removed. So, hot cocoa should taste more chocolate-y (i.e., just cocoa) and hot chocolate should have a richer taste (with cocoa AND butter).
In this recipe, we mix both—cocoa and chunks of bittersweet chocolate—at least 70% cacao. If you have time, melt the chocolate separately for a smoother flavor (see details below); otherwise, just heat it all together and pour into mugs!
Need an easy gift idea? Place dry cocoa ingredients in a clear plastic gift bag; attach the recipe, and arrange inside a special mug or a pretty box with wrapped marshmallows. Add a candy cane or cinnamon stick if you’d like!
In a medium-size saucepan on medium setting, heat milk to a gentle simmer. Whisk in sugar, cocoa powder, chopped chocolate*, and cinnamon.
*If you have extra time, melt the chocolate separately in a double boiler (or, just set a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water). Heat the milk with other ingredients separately. Once the chocolate is melted, whisk into the milky mixture.
Simmer the mixture, whisking continuously, until chocolate and sugar are melted and mixture begins to thicken. Divide among four mugs.
Sprinkle with mini-marshmallows. Try making your own (recipe below)!
In the bowl of a standing mixer with whisk attachment, pour ½ cup ice-cold water. Place gelatin on top of the water. Have whisk attachment standing by.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine remaining ½ cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until mixture reaches 240º, 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat immediately. With the mixer on low speed, pour sugar syrup slowly down the side of the bowl into gelatin mixture. Once you’ve added all of the syrup, increase speed to high. Continue whipping until mixture is very thick, 12-15 minutes. Add vanilla.
Combine confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Line 4 rimmed baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Mist with nonstick cooking spray, and dust with sugar/cornstarch mixture. Scoop syrup/gelatin mixture into a piping bag fitted with a ½-inch round piping tip. Pipe mixture onto prepared sheet pans lengthwise, leaving about 1 inch between strips. Sprinkle tops with enough of remaining cornstarch mixture to cover lightly. Let strips set 4 hours, or up to overnight.
Cut into ½-inch pieces; then dust all sides of each marshmallow lightly with remaining sugar/cornstarch mixture. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Yield: about 1 pound marshmallows