Spiced Hot Chocolate (or Chocolate Milk)
Hot chocolate is another of my favorite cold-weather drinks. But now the weather's getting warmer, it's great chilled as well. While I love the packages of spiced Mexican chocolate and the gorgeous Mexican hot chocolate whisks, called molinillos, I prefer to make the drink from scratch since I think cocoa powder gives a richer flavor than the prepared chocolate disks of the Mexican variety.
1 liter/quart whole milk
4-5 tbsp turbinado sugar
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground allspice*
1/8 tsp cinnamon*
5 tbsp pure, unsweetened cocoa powder
*Instead of these spices, consider ground cloves, cardamom, ginger, vanilla, even a tiny dash of cayenne pepper!
Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the sugar before heating over a medium flame. (My belief, not scientific, is that the sugar helps to keep heating milk from forming a skin on the surface as well as on the bottom of the pan. Of course whisking like crazy helps too. I suggest you do both.) Music to whisk chocolate by: "Vamonos" by Rock en espanol greats, Cafe Tacuba
While the milk is heating, add the salt (creates real depth of flavor here) and the ground spices and whisk them in. After about 2 minutes, the milk is warm enough to absorb the cocoa powder without it globbing into lumps. So add the cocoa powder now and whisk even harder than before to incorporate everything. Continue cooking and periodically whisking for another 3 minutes. The milk should just get hot, never boil!, so I find that 5 minutes over medium heat achieves that well. Serve immediately or let cool completely for cold, spiced chocolate milk.
**Frivolous, Martha Stewart-y serving suggestion: Place a long cinnamon stick in each mug as a flavorful and decorative stir.