My family is big on “the holidays”. The festivities began as early as December 1st from playing Nat King Cole Christmas tunes to decorating the house with lights. Holiday spirit is not something we lack nor something we doubt. But more than decorations and gifts, the holidays are the only time my entire family is in one place. It’s one of two times a year I visit them all the 3,000 miles away.
On Christmas morning, my mom still gets up early to set up the spread of hot chocolate, cinnamon buns, and quiche. My sisters and I are all too old for this treatment, but she still breaks out the same traditions that we grew up having without missing a beat. So for me, hot cocoa is not just a winter indulgence, but a drink of festivity and family. It’s a drink of home.
SPICED HAZELNUT HOT CHOCOLATE WITH PEPPERMINT WHIPPED CREAM (Serves 4)
- 4 cups hazelnut milk
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Freshly grated nutmeg
In a large saucepan, heat hazelnut milk over medium heat until warm. Whisk in cocoa powder, adding small portions at a time to avoid clumps. Stir in maple syrup and simmer. Once mixture is hot, add in spices and remove from heat.
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint
In a stand mixer, add whipping cream with the whisk attachment. At the highest setting, let cream beat until mixture thickens to a whipped cream texture. At the last minute, add in peppermint extract and powdered sugar. With a spatula, scrape out mixture into a small serving bowl. Top hot chocolate with whipped cream and fresh mint leaves.
TO MAKE FRESH HAZELNUT MILK*:
- 2 cups raw hazelnuts
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Cheesecloth, fine sieve or “nut milk” bag
Add raw hazelnuts and water to a large mason jar or bowl completely submerged in water and let soak for 12-24 hours.
Once soaked, drain and rinse hazelnuts well. Add them to a blender with 4 cups water, vanilla extract and sea salt. Blend very well.
Then set up a large mixing bowl with cheese cloth or a nut milk bag.
Pour milk through the cheesecloth making sure to drain all the hazelnut pulp. Squeeze bag well to release all liquid.
* There are store bought brands of hazelnut milk, too! If you don’t feel like making your own, try Pacific foods brand Hazelnut milk.
(This was originally shot for FOOD&__ in 2013)