Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Liquid candy: the best hot chocolate

Hot chocolate, the body-and-soul-warming beverage of snowy days, is essentially a liquid candy bar, so what if it were really a liquefied candy bar? The best cup of hot chocolate is traditionally made with chocolate melted and combined with dairy, either cream or milk, and topped with marshmallow. This sounds like a candy bar - chocolate, either dark or milk; sugar; marshmallows. In fact, it sounds just like a 3 Musketeers bar, which makes a stupendous cup of cocoa - the sweet milk chocolate is rich and the melted, toasty nougat dissolves and adds body, that creamy mouth-feel that the food writers go on about. Two ingredients, one cooking vessel, one serving mug, so very easy.

Many years ago my friend Billy gave me this ultimate hot chocolate recipe, and it’s an ideal way to use up leftover holiday candies. Three weeks after Valentine's Day, I still have a stash of pink- and red-wrapped milk chocolate hearts and kisses, plus caramel Rolos and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (known in the South as "Reese-y's" and around my house as "Nature's Most Perfect Food"). At the supermarket, I picked up original 3 Musketeers ("whipped-up fluffy chocolate on chocolate taste") and new-to-me 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate ("whipped-up fluffy chocolate on mint taste"), both in the fun size. On a whim, I tossed a box of Junior Mints into the basket. Add a sunny but cold Saturday afternoon in March, and some eager taste testers, and we were ready for a hot chocolate throwdown.
3 musketeers & reese's
The recipe is pretty much a ratio, approximately 4 ounces of chocolate candy to 8 ounces of milk, beginning with a small amount of chocolate and adding more to taste. I began with milk heated on the stove and mixed up individual servings by placing the chocolate in the bottom of a measuring cup, topping off with milk, then heating in 15 second increments in the microwave.

The results are in: my personal favorite is the 3 Musketeers Dark Chocolate Mint bars. The dark chocolate takes the edge off the sweet and the mint adds a crisp note. There is a pleasant toasty marshmallow taste and the nougat contributes to the texture and body of the beverage. My second place vote goes to the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Rich, chocolaty and peanut buttery, two great tastes that taste great together, as the ditty goes. A slight grittiness from the p.b. is the only detraction there. Rolos are a sentimental favorite - try them with popcorn sometime. They make a sweet, thick cocoa, with a pleasant caramel kick. Aggressive stirring is required to incorporate the caramel into the milk.
The young testers gave a universal thumbs up to the dark horse entry, hot Junior Mint. The deep chocolate color was the most appealing of all the cups and the extra sweetness appealed to the sugar-crazed kids. The preschool tester favored the simple 3 Musketeer version, with additional marshmallows.
Master Recipe for Candy Bar Hot Chocolate

Yield: One 8-ounce cup of hot chocolate


8 ounces whole milk

3 fun-size 3 Musketeers bars (or 10 small Reese's pb cups or 16 Rolos or 4 oz. Junior Mints or 8 Hershey's Milk Chocolate Kisses or Hearts)


Heat milk on stovetop or in microwave, just to scald. Place candy in bottom of mug and pour milk over. Whisk, whisk, whisk until candy is melted. Taste and add more chocolate, if necessary. You may want to place the mug in microwave for 15 seconds at a time to further dissolve the chocolate. Garnish with marshmallows or candy canes, or try this idea from the 3 Musketeers website - shavings from a frozen 3 Musketeers bar!

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