It's cold. This is official. The rats have been afforded a bed inside beside the radiator a few nights this week after I took pity on them in their semi-outdoor cage. It's that annoying time of the year when the temperatures have dropped but Great St Mary's haven't yet deemed it time to turn on the heating...so I have to wear MANY layers for choir practice, and dig out all the jumpers I possess that don't have hoods so that I can keep them on under my cassock. So far, I have only worn my boots for church and not for anything else. Gah. Cold.
So today, in between two hefty services at GSM, I decided it was time for the first mug of hot chocolate of the autumn.
Hot chocolate is not a good thing to be drinking if one sings as much as I am going to be this week (BIG service this evening, rehearsals on Tuesday and Wednesday for a concert on Thursday, practice on Friday and then Evensong next Sunday as well - with lots of drinking on Saturday for age-related reasons), especially if your throat is already gunky. But I always WANT it when I have a bit of a cold. Something wrong there.
My hot chocolate is not very sweet, and it's spicy with chilli, cinnamon and nutmeg - so it's not the cloying sickly drink that many think it is. If it's sweet I'm after, I just up the quantity of honey... I never measure things for it - it's all about finding the best personal combination. And making sure that what you're drinking looks like hot chocolate not insipid mud in water.
I like Willie's Cacao. It's amazing. No sugar, so you can regulate the sweetness properly, and the chocolate itself is incredibly flavourful - some of the 100% stuff you buy just tastes of cardboard. I have a few bars, because at present they aren't stocked at all that many places I visit very often and I only use them for hot chocolate because it's the best way I've found to really appreciate the flavour. Tescos do a really nice 85% Ecuadorian fairtrade that I intend to start using for hot chocolate when I've run out of Willie's...but that doesn't last as long in the cupboard because I tend to just eat that neat. I supplement the really expensive chocolate with a spoonful of good cocoa powder, too. You can have it as chocolatey as you like without feeling as guilty that it's costing a fortune...
The spices I have vary. If I'm in a real hurry, it's just cayenne and mixed spice. Usually though, I add cayenne, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sometimes I switch some raisiny ancho chilli powder for some of the cayenne, but I'm nearly out of that so I'm saving it for brownies. I think it works out at around a quarter of a teaspoon of cayenne (more of ancho, it's not that hot), half a teaspoon of cinnamon and some grated fresh nutmeg, but I always taste and then add more. I like it to be really spicy.
I sweeten it with honey. It feels wrong to add sugar, though there's not any reason that it should. I only ever have honey for cooking with, so I see no reason to hoard it for toast or anything. I find I use more than I think I ought to need to sweeten something. But I guess it goes to show how MUCH sugar there is in commercial hot chocolate when I see how much I have to add to this to take it away from the edge of bitter in comparison. I nearly only ever use green (semi-skimmed) milk, because there's never anything else in the house and I'm not usually after a really heavy creamy thing.
After finding all the bits, it's all about whisking. Whisking makes it frothy. And watching it, so that it doesn't boil. It needs to get to the edge of boiling, but not ACTUALLY boiling, or it stains the stove brown. Whisking makes it frothy. Most things look better over the top of a chocolate moustache.