My Family's Favorite Hot Chocolate

From "Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café" (Hyperion, September 2002)
Yield: 2 servings (easily multiplied)
Preparation time: 10 minutes

There are some days–and some moods–when hot chocolate is just simply the answer. (And there might not even have been a question!) This recipe truly hits that indescribable spot.
  • Soy milk– or a combination of milk and cream–can be substituted for the milk.
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoons sugar
3 cups milk
A pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional Toppings
Whipped cream
  1. Combine the chocolate chips and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Pour in the milk, then add the salt and vanilla.
  2. Place the saucepan over medium heat, stirring slowly as the mixture heats up and the chocolate melts. Don't let it boil.
  3. Serve hot, topped with whipped cream and a light sprinkling of cinnamon, if desired.

Why Does a Skin Form on Heated Milk?

That skin is actually a protein called casein, which evaporates and dries out on the hot surface of the milk. As you may have noticed, removing the skin while the milk is still heating doesn't do much good, since another layer will soon appear in its place. That's a good reason not to bother. An even better reason: The casein is very nutritious, and every time you skim off a layer, you are removing some of the protein from the milk.

The food scientist Shirley Corriher, in her very entertaining and informative book, Cookwise, suggests an inspired solution to this dilemma: "With hot chocolate, the simplest solution is to add marshmallows, which melt on the surface. They contain an egg white foam and gelatin, which coat the surface and prevent the casein from drying." On behalf of all of us who harbor a secret passion for marshmallows on our cocoa, I want to thank Shirley for this permission!
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