Welcome back (both to you and me)! I will not bore you with the reasons why I went on a long and unannounced hiatus, but it is over and the Cocoa Nut is back to reviewing and discussing all things related to hot cocoa.
Fall is upon us and the mornings are getting chilly. I have never been one for coffee or tea, so in what is probably a predictable turn of events, I made a cup of cocoa the other day. For me, it is a slow and relaxing process. I heated the milk in a small pot while continuously whisking it until it was warm and frothy. I used an instant cocoa packet from a box in the cabinet. I used the whisk to mix in the powder and then poured it into the mug.
It was not until I sat at my desk and prepared for work that I had the first sip. I was immediately transported back to last winter when world events were not so hectic. That is the magic of coca to me. It is something that begs for reminiscing and nostalgia. The more I enjoyed my beverage the farther back in time I slipped until I was once again 5yrs old watching my grandfather prepare a cup of cocoa for me. He was the one who taught me to insist the beverage be made with milk and sparked my appreciation for the drink.
During this pre-work relaxation period I began to think about this blog. Disappointment and self-nagging led me down a path to return to sharing my thoughts with the world. I have some new recipes, methods, and products to explore and share with you. I look forward to doing so.
The Cocoa Nut
There is long held tradition of adding accents to a cup of hot cocoa. The three common additions are whipped cream, marshmallows, and/or a peppermint stick. These accents are purely preferential and are not required to enjoy a classic cup of cocoa. Today, I want to focus on whipped cream and its contribution to hot cocoa.
The addition of whipped cream is practically iconic. A steaming mug of cocoa almost beckons to be topped with a juxtaposing mound of chilled whipped cream. The topping can come in many forms. From the stylized and decorative bands emitted from a pressurized can to the scooped snowball of “whipped topping” from a classic plastic bowl, most drinkers of hot cocoa have experienced this tasty addition to their mugs.
Those who know me best know I am a purist when it comes to most things in life. When it comes to whipped cream, there is no exception. I am a fan of real, homemade whipped cream. Now, some will step back and avoid making their own out of anxiety or convenience. I tell you making whipped cream at home is far simpler than you would have ever imagined. There are several recipes and videos out there demonstrating techniques. The short and simple version is you pour heavy cream into a chilled bowl, add in some powdered sugar and vanilla, and then use an electric beater to whip the cream to desired stiffness. This is a fun little activity which can be shared with family and friends.
For any addition to a beverage, such as hot cocoa, the question is always “What is the benefit?”. Why do people add something like whipped cream to the cocoa? What is gained? In a word: contrast. Whether it is real whipped cream or a synthetic substitute, the topping is normally chilled before serving. By adding the topping to a warm mug of cocoa, the drinker’s tongue is splashed with the clashing sensations of warmth and coolness. The contrast does not stop there. Due to the nature of the whipped cream, the substance is incredibly light. This is due to the actual whipping. The process folds air into the cream to create the fluffiness for which it is known. This contrasts deliciously with the heavy richness found in a standard cup of cocoa.
There is at least one more benefit to adding whipped cream to cocoa. As the cream melts into the beverage, the richness of the drink is increased. I have stated before my preference for using milk as the base of the hot cocoa since the milk fat enhances the richness of the chocolate. This is magnified even more so with the whipped cream as cream has a much higher fat content.
Is adding whipped cream to hot cocoa necessary? No. Is it encouraged by me? Yes. The whipped cream on a cup of cocoa is more than a garnish. It is an additional ingredient that adds a delicious spin on a classic recipe. If you have not tried it, please do.
The Cocoa Nut
To recap for those that may not have read my previous post on the subject, I am in the process of reviewing 18 varieties of hot cocoa from a sample pack I purchased online. Today’s flavor Peanut Butter Cup by Brooklyn Bean Roastery.
Brooklyn Bean Roastery is another brand of hot cocoa I was unfamiliar with before I received my sampler. This might be because they primarily sell coffee, with a specialty focus in single servings for Keurig machines. I was cautious when tasting this brand’s cocoa for the first time. There is a long held belief in the world that the flavor of coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate. I hoped Brooklyn did not incorporate coffee flavor in their cocoa.
The concept of peanut butter cup flavored cocoa appealed to me immediately. One of my favorite chocolate candies is the peanut butter cup. It is normally the first item I look for when entering any candy store, especially the little mom and pop shops you often find in vacation towns and tourist destinations.
This was my second time using the Keurig to make hot chocolate. My previous attempt set the device to dispense a 12oz serving. This produced a watered down cup of hot cocoa. I decided to go with a 10oz serving for this round. The results were a slight improvement.
The 10oz serving from the Keurig did produce a less watered down cup of cocoa, but it still was not concentrated enough. The peanut butter flavor I was looking forward to was just not there. It was faint at best. This could have been due to the 10oz of water, but I am hesitant to believe what should have been a prominent flavor could have been diluted so significantly.
On the other hand, the chocolate flavor was fairly decent. It was an average taste for a cup of powdered cocoa. I was incredibly please to not detect any notes of coffee in the cocoa. I tip my cap to Brooklyn Bean Roastery for keeping these flavors separate. I am very interested to see if the flavor and intensity is improved any when I lower the water level to 8oz.
The Cocoa Nut