Make extra of this hot chocolate, because you’ll want to keep some luxury for yourself.
I looked a long time to find the perfect recipe. I wanted one that would be complex-tasting yet simple to make. Plus I wanted one that was deep and chocolatey, not sweet and cloying.
I’m happy to say that Alton Brown’s hot cocoa recipe is it. It’s instant: no whisking and no burning milk in a pan. It’s rich but it’s not heavy. And most importantly, it’s like drinking warm European chocolate. When are you not in the mood for that?
Gourmet Hot Chocolate Recipe
Here is Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Recipe, without the cayenne pepper.
If you prize chocolate, you’ll want your mix to be made with the best-tasting cocoa powder. Dutch-processed cocoa is going to give you the strongest chocolate taste without acidity or bitterness. Among the dutch-processed cocoa powders, the Belgian brand Callebaut got the highest mark in a Cook’s Illustrated blind taste test, so that’s the one I have used, and it is exquisite.
However, at $30-35 per 2.2 lb. bag (or $1 per ounce), it is pricey. Cook’s Illustrated also did a taste test of supermarket cocoa powder, and two Hershey’s varieties were in the top three. The tasters rated Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa number one for it’s “assertive” chocolate flavor, and Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa in third. (Droste, an imported Dutched cocoa, came in second for its “round,” “bold” flavor and “depth,” but like Callebaut, it’s more of a splurge.)
Makes 5 1/2 cups of dry mix
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
- 2 1/2 cups powdered non-fat milk (NOT whole milk, which tends to lump)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
Fill mug halfway with mix. Pour in hot water. Mix well.
(It might sound like a lot of mix, but remember that the largest ingredient is powdered milk.)
How to Make a Big Batch for Giving
The above recipe only makes enough for about one family, so I figured out how to make a ton so that we could give it away to friends, relatives, and teachers.
Since the cocoa powder is the most expensive and perishable ingredient (it should be used within several months or it loses flavor), it makes sense to buy the other ingredients based on how much you can get out of a bag of cocoa.
There are 8 cups of cocoa powder in a 2.2 lb. (1 kilo) bag of Callebaut. To make a batch of hot chocolate using the whole bag, you’ll need 16 cups of powdered sugar, and 20 cups of powdered milk. That should make a total of 44 cups of hot chocolate mix and about 11 gift cans (if you use 10 oz. coffee cans which hold about 4 cups each). So here is my recommendation for what to buy:
Shopping List (for a Big Batch)
- One 2.2 lb. bag of Callebaut cocoa powder (see above if you want to try a different brand)
- Two 2 lb. bags of powdered sugar
- One 1 lb. bag or box of powdered sugar (you’ll have some left over)
- 4 lbs. of fresh, non-expired powdered non-fat milk (stale powdered milk tends to lump)
As you can see from the photo, this year I doubled my big batch and bought 2 bags of cocoa powder. I’m psyched to have all the hot chocolate to give away, but it is quite a messy operation to mix it all up. This year, I scrubbed clean a plastic bin that used to house Christmas decor and used it to stir up the mix, which was better than having to do several batches in a large bowl.
Big Batch Recipe of Gourmet Hot Chocolate
Makes 44 cups of mix (about 10 cans of hot chocolate)
- One 2.2 lb. bag of Callebaut cocoa powder
- Two 2 lb. bags plus 2 cups of powdered sugar
- 20 cups of powdered milk
- 8 teaspoons of salt
- 16 teaspoons of cornstarch
Mix together in a very large container (or new trash bag), making sure that all the ingredients are incorporated by scraping the bottoms and sides. Spoon into containers and label with directions and ingredients (see below).
Packaging the Hot Chocolate Mix
We covered the cans with paper bags.
Every brand has a slightly different can size, so you’ll need to measure from top to bottom and around the middle. Bustelo requires a 5 3/8″ x 13″ rectangle to cover the can, which we simply attached with school glue.
Measuring trick: if you don’t have a tape measure, wrap a ribbon or towel around the object to be measured, mark the end point, and then lay the fabric against a ruler.
We then wrote “Hot Chocolate” on a 4-inch doily and glued it on the front and top using regular school glue.
Then I noticed that I could just pull off the Bustelo label and get a plain silver can. So I saved time and effort by just attaching the labels to the aluminum can. And I think they look just about as good. Has anyone coined the term frilly-industrial?
Printable Labels for Ingredients and Directions
Here is a PDF you can download and use to print labels for the hot chocolate. I only did the ingredients and directions because I thought handwriting the “Hot Chocolate” looked more homey.
These go perfectly with Avery shipping labels #18163 (available in 10-sheet packs).
And that’s about it! The hot cocoa mix is not hard to make — you can mix up a big batch and package it all simply in one afternoon. And don’t forget to save some for yourself — I’m sure you deserve it.