Thursday, February 14, 2008

On Hot Chocolate

I was home over the Christmas holidays, and one day while chilling in the kitchen with me, my niece asked for a cup of chocolate milk. I had her ask her mom (safe policy, I assure you), and upon receiving permission we went together to the fridge, found the ol' Hershey's in its chocolate-tear-drop container, and grabbed the milk. "I'll pour the syrup and milk, and you stir," I said.

"Okay!" said Charlotte.

"Tell me when."

Now here's the thing; I had merely begun to inject that milk with the sweet goodness that is Hershey's when that girl said "when." She stirred furiously. The water turned a pale shade of beige. I said, "Is that enough syrup?" and she nodded knowingly, drank a big swig, and beamed with chocolate delight.

Me? I'm not buying it. I stopped drinking chocolate milk like that years ago. I realized early on that no amount of syrup will turn milk into the same substance sold in gallon jugs at the supermarket, that staple of camping breakfasts, the real-deal chocolate milk. As boy scouts we called it "slime," and I'm sure you know why. Real chocolate milk is thick, chocolatey, and clearly not good for you.

But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about hot chocolate. Now I want you to put on your SAT (or ACT) thinking caps and take a look at this analogy problem:

Homemade chocolate milk is to store-bought chocolate milk as homemade hot chocolate is to store-bought hot chocolate.

The above analogy is:

a.) True, because homemade hot chocolate is often disappointing to a comparable degree as homemade chocolate milk,
b.) True, because store-bought hot chocolate is as better than homemade hot chocolate as store-bought chocolate milk is to homemade chocolate milk,
c.) Neither a or b, because expensive test-preparation programs have taught you to rule out any two answers that seem the same, or
d.) False, because like everyone else, you are always disappointed by how little improvement there is over homemade hot chocolate when you shell out big bucks for a cup of so-called "gourmet" hot chocolate at a Starbucks or similar establishment. In fact, now that you think about it, you wish you had all that money back because it could buy a fair amount of Stephens, with which you could, having at least a little gumption and a modicum of creativity, craft positively delightful hot chocolate creations in the comfort of your own home, what with the ready availability of things like sprinkles and whipped creams and cinnamon sticks, not to mention the various half-used jars of ice cream toppings cluttering up the fridge door—you might even swirl a bit of Hershey's syrup on top for good measure. Furthermore, Starbucks never seems to be playing anything good—at home you have a perfectly good collection of Iron Maiden albums and, when those fail, a large library of Schwarzenegger films. And what is it with those baristas anyway? Do they feel I am dismissing their true calling and tainting their machines by demanding cocoa instead of café, the way bartenders do when a table of minors orders round after round of virgin daiquiris for which they will not tip? Do they refuse to put the same care into a cup of chocolate that they would put into a double mocha-frocha mega latte supreme deluxe with its "nutty overtones" and its "subtle elegance"? Hot chocolate just isn't good enough for them, huh? Well maybe I should just buy a jug of slime and put it in the microwave.

Time's up, pencils down.

I feel I should mention a few things. One, an upscale grocery store in my town once carried a brand of chocolate milk that was the flavor and consistency of melted fudgsicles. It came in heavy glass bottles that were meant to be returned to the store when you were done. Two, I'm not sure strawberry milk follows the same pattern as chocolate milk, but then, I haven't bought much pre-made strawberry milk in my time. Three, in Korea they sell banana milk as a compliment to the chocolate and strawberry varieties. It is equally good in both forms. The first time I drank it was on my first train ride ever; I have loved both things ever since. Four, there is apparently a difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa—someone should look into that. Five, one word: Cocomotion. Six, Hershey's syrup or Nestle Quik? What about Ovaltine? Yoo-hoo? Carnation Instant Breakfast? Slimfast? Someone call America's Test Kitchen quick.

The answer was d.


Janssen said...

I definitely agree that the answer was d (although c was pretty tempting too).

I was a nanny for a while in Texas after coming home from London and the parents bought gallons of chocolate millk and I can definitely attest that there is a HUGE difference between the store-made and the homemade.

Also, buying hot chocolate by the cupful is a waste. We buy the cheapest non-brand packets at the store (about nine cents a packet) and a bottle of flavored coffee creamer and life is good.

Jennifer said...

D rules. Hot cocoa is made by the addition of cocoa to sugar and milk, as I'm sure you can figure out. Hot chocolate is actually melted chocolate of some variety mixed into the milk. The BEST I've ever had was homemade from a returned missionary from Italy. Made the Italian way, it looked just like the stuff on "Chocolat." I have never been able to get over it. I have never tried pouring hot milk over choc. chips and stirring, but I've heard the idea before. Let me know if you try it. I, personally, like Ghirardelli's because of its deep chocolate (or should I say cocoa) flavor. Have you tried making it with half and half or cream? Andy's fave. Very chewy. Love YOUR SISTER

Noelle said...

I'm happy with Stephen's, unfortunately, I have yet to find Stephen's hot cocoa out here in Ohio. Any luck? Janssen--great idea on the flavorings, I am going to get a bottle of that today to add to my newly purchased #10 can of cannery hot cocoa. Also, I'll try to look into the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate for you Grover. :)

David Grover said...

Jen, I'm going to assume that "D rules" means I rule. I meant to bring up how good that stuff in Chocolat looks but I forgot. Noelle, do we know each other?

Special K said...

I love whipped cream on with pumpkin pie spice sprinkled over my hot chocolate. mmmm.

Elisa said...

You know how we're told that if we don't eat breakfast we'll be starving long before lunchtime? Everybody who's anybody knows the opposite is true. Yesterday, though, I found a breakfast that fought off mid-morning grumbles. First, a slice of toast with peanut butter and chocolate chips all melty and delicious on top. A big mug of steamy hot cocoa (made with Starbucks hot cocoa mix--NOT hot chocolate mix)that had a huge dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Not your average breakfast. My long-winded point? Hot cocoa ends world hunger.

Joe said...


Only girls comment on your blog, which, of course, is something I respect and admire about you. But here's a little bit of man love for you (what?!): chocolate milk is to hot chocolate as the Rockies are to the Appalachians.

Kirby said...

I have been on the never ending quest for the best hot chocolate recipe.
I started about two years ago, and I have made varying levels of hot chocolate. From some Hershey's thrown in a glass and some milk, to things that involve scalding milk, mixing it with cream and whipping the snot out of it, slowly addding melted chocolate.

I have yet to be entirely satisfied.