Monday, November 26, 2012

Salted Caramel Mocha & Hot Chocolate

I hope y'all had a delicious, stretch-pants-worthy Thanksgiving. With Thanksgiving comes my most favorite time of year. The Christmas music starts playing non-stop on the radio and becomes my Pandora station for the month.  And wouldn't you know it, we're actually having some cool weather here in good ol' South Carolina. Last year it barely got cold enough for me to need long sleeves, but this year the air has a crispness that I've sorely missed.

Crisp air needs warm drinks. I first fell in love with salted caramel hot chocolate as a senior in college. I still liked my drinks on the sweet side, but I was beginning to branch out. I remember the big chunks of salt on the whipped cream and loving the bite that counteracted the sweet richness of the hot chocolate. It wasn't my first foray into salted caramel, but it did solidify my love for it.

The first thing we need to do is make salted caramel. You'll need: sugar, cream, vanilla extract, fine sea salt, and butter. My number one tip for making caramel is to have everything you need ready to go from the beginning. Measure your cream, cut your butter up, and let it stand at room temperature.

This is a dry caramel, meaning we're not combining the sugar with water and boiling it. Instead we're just letting the sugar melt on its own. Start by heating the caramel over medium-high heat and stirring it with a wooden spoon every so often.

Truth be told I probably over-agitated this. Don't be like me. You really only want to move the sugar around enough to keep it from burning.

All is not lost, though. It's sugar over heat. Basically, it's gonna melt and stirring it will help it along. A whisk might've been a good call here to break up the lumps faster.

When the sugar has melted into a smooth, amber liquid, turn the heat down and add the butter. It'll bubble and hiss at you, but as long as your pot is big enough you should be fine.

Stir in the cream and take the caramel off the heat.

Vanilla and salt complete the picture.

Pour the caramel into a heatproof container and let it cool.

So here's the deal. I couldn't decide between a mocha and a hot chocolate, so I made both. For the base, you'll need: cocoa powder, powdered sugar, milk, salt, and salted caramel. I topped the hot chocolate with marshmallows, homemade chocolate syrup, and more caramel.

For the mocha, use the same base as the hot chocolate and top with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and salted caramel sauce.

Start by mixing the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and salt. I find powdered sugar dissolves better than granulated sugar, and it's something I always have around.

Pour the cocoa mixture into the bottom of your favorite heat-proof glass.

Give a nice squirt of salted caramel (and a little extra chocolate sauce if you're feeling frisky) to the bottom of the glass.

Steam your milk (or heat it on the stove until just short of boiling) and pour it over the cocoa mixture.

Stir, stir, stir! P.S. I love foam.

For the hot chocolate, your next step is to sprinkle in marshmallows and drizzle chocolate sauce and salted caramel over the top.

Seriously, it's dessert. Seriously, it's a decadent wintry beverage.

If you're making a mocha, pour in an ounce or so of brewed espresso with the steamed milk. Stir, stir, stir!

Top with a sizable dollop of whipped cream. I didn't bother to sweeten it much since, y'know, it's going on top of this.

Again, drizzle with the sauces. Because you can never have too much.

Salted Caramel Mocha & Hot Chocolate (makes 1 drink)

2 tbs cocoa powder
1 tbs powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
Chocolate Syrup
Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 c milk

Hot Chocolate Extras:
Miniature marshmallows
Extra Chocolate Syrup & Salted Caramel

Mocha Extras:
1 oz brewed espresso
Barely sweetened whipped cream
Extra Chocolate Syrup & Salted Caramel

  • Begin by making the base for either drink. Stir together the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and salt. Pour into your favorite mug. Drizzle chocolate syrup and caramel sauce in the bottom of the glass.
  • Steam your milk or heat on the stove in a small saucepan over medium heat until just short of boiling. You'll see small bubbles form at the edge of the pan. Pour over the cocoa mixture and sauces. Stir until lump-free and cocoa mixture has dissolved. 
  • For hot chocolate, top with marshmallows and drizzle chocolate syrup and caramel over the marshmallows.
  • To make a mocha: Add espresso with steamed milk. Top with whipped cream and drizzle sauces over top.

Salted Caramel Sauce
 (makes about 1 1/2 cups)

1 1/3 c granulated sugar
8 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into cubes
2/3 c heavy cream, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

  • In a medium saucepan, begin cooking sugar over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to keep sugar from burning in spots.
  • As sugar melts, stir to break up lumps. Stir the caramel that is forming until smooth.
  • When the caramel reaches an amber color, turn the heat down to medium-low. Stir in the butter and cream until completely smooth and silky. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Let cool slightly and pour into a heatproof container.

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