What’s not to like about hot chocolate? It’s creamy, rich, sweet, and decadent. There are so many different types of hot chocolate from classic Swiss Miss to Hershey’s chocolate syrup to the thick, pudding-like drink served with churros in Madrid.
You can easily play around with different flavors and textures depending on your mood. A basic hot chocolate starts with some form of creamy liquid (milk, half-and-half heavy cream or a non-dairy milk) simmered with cocoa powder and sugar. Melt in some chocolate to reach a new level of decadence. Let’s say you’re looking for a peppermint flavor — swirl in a bit of peppermint extract and some crushed peppermint candy. For a thick hot chocolate, cornstarch is the magic ingredient. You can still use the same base recipe, but mix in a cornstarch slurry (a smooth mixture of cornstarch and water) and watch in amazement, as the hot chocolate suddenly thickens right before your eyes.
I’ve provided my own recipe below, though you can truly modify anything to your liking. It’s more of a starting place with a list of key ingredients and techniques that can be manipulated or tweaked. If you want more or less sugar, adjust as needed. If you want a richer hot chocolate, sub half-and-half.
Additionally, I highly recommend the homemade marshmallow recipe from Stella Parks’ Bravetart cookbook. Homemade marshmallows are so soft, light, and fluffy compared to their store-bought counterparts. The recipe requires a candy thermometer and a bit of time, but it is well worth the effort. Keep in mind, marshmallows are mostly sugar, so you may want to keep your drink slightly more bitter to offset their sweet taste.
Creamy Hot Chocolate Recipe
For the Cornstarch Slurry (optional):
- 1 tablespoon 2% milk or whole milk, chilled
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
For the Hot Chocolate:
- 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar, plus more if needed
- 1 to 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 cups 2% milk or whole milk, or non-dairy milk
- A pinch of salt
- 1 ounce 70% finely chopped dark chocolate, optional, for a richer hot chocolate
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Homemade or store-bought marshmallows, for serving
Make the Cornstarch Slurry (optional):
- In a small bowl, whisk cold milk with cornstarch until no clumps remain. Set aside
Make the Hot Chocolate:
- In a 3-quart saucepan, add sugar, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, milk, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Whisk frequently to ensure the cocoa powder melts into the milk. Taste and adjust, adding the additional cocoa powder if desired.Note: Lower the heat as needed to prevent the milk from burning.
- Add chopped chocolate (if using) and cornstarch slurry (if using) and bring to a boil. Whisk constantly for 2 minutes at a boil. Note: Cornstarch needs to boil for at least one minute to activate and thicken.
- Taste the hot chocolate and adjust flavorings as needed. Not sweet enough? Stir in additional sugar. Not chocolatey enough? Stir in additional cocoa powder or chopped chocolate.Note: Keep in mind the marshmallows will add more sweetness to the hot chocolate. Salt really brings out the chocolate flavors, so if you feel the hot chocolate needs something extra, try adding another pinch.
- Remove from the heat then stir in the vanilla extract. Divide hot chocolate amongst two mugs and top with marshmallows.