Cocoa Goes Craft

10 Hot Chocolates to Try This Winter

December 12, 2014 Buying Guides By Photo by Henry Phillips

Tossing a box of Swiss Miss or Nestle into your shopping cart is the hot chocolate equivalent of grabbing a Bud Light sixer for the night. It’s great. There’s nothing wrong with it. But some people, sometimes, prefer a more sophisticated taste. As with beer, chocolate, and by extension hot chocolate, has an artisan niche. People want to know where the beans come from, and where and how the chocolate was made. But instead of hops and malt, the ingredient in question is cacao beans. Instead of % ABV, it’s % cacao content. These complexities of taste are one big reason hot chocolate deserves to shed its childish stigma. As does its history: centuries ago, the Aztecs thought it divine and, later, the Europeans put it at the pinnacle of style. The quality hot chocolates of today have excellent aromatics, complex flavors and offer a caffeine kick from the cacao beans they were made from. So next time you’re seeking a second wind, or a substitute for a post-ski IPA, conjure up one of these delicacies.

Chocolate Terms To Know

Dark Chocolate: a type of chocolate with many monikers: “bitter”, “unsweetened” and “baking chocolate”. It has no (or very little) milk and a very high cocoa percentage.

Milk Chocolate: Made famous in America by Milton S. Hershey, founder of The Hershey Company, this is a mix of cocoa powder and powdered, liquid or condensed milk. Sweet and fairly mild, it’s a common family favorite.

Cacao: The beans that come directly from a cacao tree. Without any added sugars or fats, it’s the purest form of edible chocolate.

Cocoa Butter: A vegetable fat that’s found in and extracted from ground cacao beans. In “Dutch” cocoa, the cocoa butter is removed when the cacao is processed. It is later re-added when forming chocolate. A non-“Dutch” processed cocoa’s cocoa butter is never removed. Removing the cocoa butter makes the processed cocoa’s flavor less severe and acidic; however, the cocoa butter is vital in making a solid chocolate bar. Without cocoa butter, the chocolate we know and love can’t exist.

Cocoa Powder: The processed cocoa liquor and cocoa butter combine to form a chocolate solid. This solid is combined with (depending on the brand) salt, sugar and other additives, then ground up into powder.

Couverture: A type of artisan chocolate that has a high amount of cocoa butter (32 to 39 percent). These chocolates are typically less sweet and are referred to as “bittersweet” or “semi-sweet”.

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