Warm Winter, Hot Chocolate

photography by Jason Stephens

Food has power. We have to eat if we want to live, and we have to live if we want to eat. If you’re at all like me, you’re pretty much living to eat anyway. And, adding chocolate to your intake makes the food journey more fun! Food also has the power to change lives, like the seasons.

Although the seasons don’t change much in Florida, chocolate should always have a place in your cup. Th e winter season, no matter the temperature, makes me want to be at home with the lights down low, the music turned up. In this season I often want to be sipping something warm as well. Sure, most of us grew up drinking hot chocolate made from that small packet of mysterious powder and those crispy “marshmallows.” Years ago, however, all of that changed for me when Mrs. Gonzalez (who is like a mother to me) offered me a cup of very special melted drinking chocolate.

Now, Mrs. Gonzalez has a way of making just about anyone feel like family, and she sure does know her way around a kitchen. Her home radiates warmth and tenderness. She pours out wisdom for a life filled with love, along with the best hot chocolate you’ve ever had.

When Mrs. Gonzalez introduced me to melted drinking chocolate, she served it up with cheese. At first thought, cheese and hot chocolate may not sound enticing, but, trust me — and trust Mrs. Gonzalez’s recipe!

Over the next couple of months, I hope you find yourself safe and warm, enjoying the new year, and sipping one of our favorite hot chocolates.

MRS. GONZALEZ’S PUERTO RICAN HOT CHOCOLATE

Cortes (or Goya) chocolate bar
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup water
sharp cheddar cheese

Th e Cortes or Goya chocolate bars can be found at your local Publix. (They are packaged in large-sectioned bars.) In a small saucepan, melt four of the pieces in 1 cup of water. Once melted, over medium heat, add the can of milk. Heat for about 2 minutes. Do not boil! Serve with a small chunk of cheese or to taste.

Pro Tip: Drink with a spoon instead of from a cup. This gives you the full effect of the melted, soft, and stringy cheese.

VEGAN PUMPKIN HOT CHOCOLATE

2 cups vanilla almond milk
1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon dash of nutmeg dash of cloves

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and continue stirring to ensure that everything is well-combined. Reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to mugs. Top with vegan whipped cream or your favorite hot-chocolate toppings. 

COCONUT MILK WHIPPED CREAM

1 can full-fat coconut milk (without guar gum)
1/4 tsp vanilla sweetener  

Place can in the fridge overnight. Remove can from the fridge when ready and flip it upside down (yes, do it, the liquid coconut milk — the part that doesn’t harden — will now be at the top of the can). Open the can and pour out the liquid. There should be just under 1 cup of liquid. (This liquid can be used later for baking or cooking.) Add the thick coconut cream to a chilled bowl and whip until fluffy and smooth. At this point, I recommend adding a couple teaspoons of sweetener and 1/4 tsp. vanilla. You can use this whipped cream just about any way you’d use regular whipped cream.

STANDARD HOT CHOCOLATE

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (for adults, dark chocolate is delicious)

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup hot water

1/8 tsp salt

4 cups milk (dairy or non-dairy)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the cocoa, sugar, water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, stir constantly until the mixture boils. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the milk. Heat, but do not boil. Remove from the heat, and add vanilla. Serve immediately.

Play around with this recipe — if you want to be adult-like, add a little something.

MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE
Follow the Standard Hot Chocolate recipe. With the milk, also add 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of nutmeg, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
“I WANT DESSERT” HOT CHOCOLATE
3 (12 oz each) cans evaporated milk 1 Tbsp vanilla extract 12 oz of your favorite chocolate chips whipped cream, chocolate sauce, cocoa powder for serving In a medium pot over medium heat, whisk together milk and vanilla. Add chocolate chips and stir until chocolate is melted. Cover and turn heat to low for 5 minutes.

THE LAKELANDER ’S  FAVORITE LOCAL CHOCOLATE OFFERINGS


Scarpa’s Italian:

Chocolate Pots de Creme

A cross between a pudding and a mousse. Served chilled with a warm, salted-caramel sauce. A customer favorite. Made from scratch.

The Terrace Grille:

Chocolate Lava Cake

Chocolate cake with a warm, molten-chocolate center and topped with vanilla-bean ice cream, whipped cream, macadamia nuts, and chocolate sauce. Did we mention chocolate?

Cafe Zuppina:

Turkish Pots de Creme served with freshly whipped cream

Simple ingredients from Berna’s kitchen and tasty as usual, making you wonder how she does it, every time.