While I’m looking forward to the spring flowers that our April showers will bring, I’m still in full-on winter mode in terms of wanting hot beverages. How can your mind not edge towards hot chocolate when it’s gray, cold, and wet outside? Twenty degrees Fahrenheit and sunny seems warmer than 45F and raining. So in the spirit of warding off chill, I decided to see if I could make a Spanish-style hot chocolate.
If you’ve had the pleasure of sitting outside a Valor chocolate shop in Spain and sipping their famous hot chocolate, you know what I mean by “Spanish-style”: incredibly thick and creamy. You can nearly stand up a spoon in the stuff. This is the opposite of a frothy latte, the antithesis of the (sometimes) overwrought and overwhipped creations you find at European-inspired coffee shops Stateside. Spanish hot chocolate is not trying to be delicate or ethereal — it’s making a strong chocolate statement.
While I’m not exactly sure what magical ingredient makes the Valor hot chocolate so insanely thick (although I think cornstarch may play a role), I thought I’d try to create my own ultra-velvety hot chocolate by whisking in something that’s silky and smooth in its own right, something that probably already inhabits your pantry: canned pumpkin. Yup. It thickens without having an overly distinct flavor of its own. If anything, it imparts a slightly sweet creaminess, which is most welcome in a mug of hot chocolate. And the pumpkin-and-chocolate combo already exists in the form of muffins, cakes, and ice cream. Why not pumpkin-infused hot chocolate, too?
Pumpkin-Laced Hot Chocolate
To make a mug of creamy and thick hot chocolate, simply place 2 tablespoons unsweetened (and preferably non-Dutched) cocoa powder in a mug. Add 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Fill halfway with boiling water and whisk with a fork until all the clumps have dissolved. Pour in a tiny dash of vanilla (no more than 1/4 teaspoon) and top off with whole milk (preferably from grass-fed cows). Stir again until well-blended. If you’d like it to be a little sweeter, add a little more maple syrup.
Note that you’ll have to occasionally swirl the hot chocolate as you drink it — much like Spanish-style hot chocolate, yours will have lots of body, and it will taste better if it doesn’t sit and settle for too long.