Holiday greetings from the venerable Spy Test Kitchens! I am writing this week’s column just before gearing up for lots of holiday food prep. It is almost Christmas, and there is still a lot of cooking and baking (not to mention cleaning up) ahead of me. And there is going to be another storm of the century in a couple of days. Be prepared!
I have finished baking Christmas cookies, but there is a little more baking in my immediate future: a breakfast sausage and egg casserole, a Boston cream pie, and some dinner rolls. And that does not mention the tricky proposition of making a batch of tempting pigs-in-blankets. I will leave the agonizing cooking decisions about the Christmas feast beef tenderloin to Mr. Sanders, who is pouring over the dozens of approaches he can employ to roast the meat. I’ll blanch the asparagus, and slice the potatoes for Gratin Dauphinoise. Christmas dinner is going to be an enormous calorie encounter. And as it is going to be gelid and bitterly cold – we deserve the extra high test rocket fuel.
The perfect way to warm up during the chilly winter weather is with a steaming hot cup of hot chocolate. I was wandering through a high end boutique-y grocery store last weekend, eyeing the Christmas gift food displays, which are siren songs, luring you onto the rocks to grab your wallet and shake you down for every penny you have earned with your hard work and sweaty brow. Do not give in to the bright, shiny packaging of cellophane-wrapped Hot Cocoa Bombs, or Santa’s Sweet Shop Cocoa Wonderland Cocoa Bottle Assortments. Heavens to Betsy. 8.1 ounces of hot cocoa bombs will set you back $12.99! Trust me, it is better for your thrifty epicurean soul to make your own mixture of chocolate and cocoa powder. And since it is the holidays, maybe you’ll even make a smidge extra, and share it with your neighbor who doesn’t seem to mind that your messy pine tree has been shedding needles all over his otherwise tidy front walk for the last couple of months.
For Yourself – Simplest Hot Chocolate
1 ounce semisweet or dark chocolate – chopped
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 pinch salt
In a small saucepan, mix the chocolate, cocoa powder and half of the milk over low heat. Stir continuously until the chocolate is completely melted. Add the rest of the milk and the salt. Stir, until steam rises. Add sugar. Pour into a mug and top with mini marshmallows or whipped cream. Yumsters.
Feeling experimental? Try adding a drop of peppermint extract or cayenne. Or even a dash of Bailey’s Irish cream. It’s Christmas, after all.
Our friends at Food52 have a recipe for hot cocoa mix to share with your saintly neighbor: https://food52.com/recipes/26470-homemade-hot-cocoa-mix
Martha, who always manages to make the rest of us look drab and ordinary, has a recipe for white hot chocolate. Of course, she suggests putting it out for Santa. Well. I hope Santa still likes my gingersnaps. https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/martha-stewarts-hot-white-chocolate-1207424
Stay warm, drive carefully, and look out for your neighbors. It’s going to be slippery. Merry Christmas!
“Some days you get up and you already know that things aren’t going to go well. They’re the type of days when you should just give in, put your pajamas back on, make some hot chocolate and read comic books in bed with the covers up until the world looks more encouraging. Of course, they never let you do that.”
― Bill Watterson