Today, Alex and I drove back to Buffalo with the kitties from our fun-filled (and super busy) holidays with my family in PA. The weather was perfectly clear the entire way, which is always a surprise in January, since we drive right along Lake Erie for about half the trip. Although the weather was perfect, the kitties were not fans of being put into their carrier for yet another car ride; they sat there head butting the door and scratching at it as much as they possibly could. When the ride was over, there was a nice little pile of kitty nails in front of the carrier on the floor, and Tesla had a swollen nose. Suffice it to say, they’ve been sleeping pretty much since we got back.
I got a little way through unpacking before I fell asleep for about twenty minutes, then I got most of the Christmas gifts unpacked and made chili and cornbread for dinner. I then parked myself on the couch to watch some Doctor Who, and I haven’t moved since. This night definitely calls for a huge mug of hot chocolate – this salted caramel hot chocolate, specifically.
I made this mix to include in each of my Christmas gifts this year, along with some homemade vanilla bean marshmallows. It’s rich and chocolatey, with the perfect amount of salty caramel flavor. It’s so perfect for a cold winter night being curled up on the couch with a big cozy blanket!
On the labels, I wrote out the instructions, indicating you could use hot milk or hot water to mix it into – I definitely recommend the hot milk, as it gives you a much creamier hot cocoa. If you’re out of milk, water is totally fine, too, or if you’re dairy intolerant, coconut milk (or any other non dairy milk) would be super.
This is extremely easy to make – don’t let the caramel making scare you! In the original recipe I found for this, it used just sugar melted down, but I’ve found that burns way too easily, so I did it the way I always make caramel, and it’s essentially fool-proof. Just don’t let it get too dark once it starts deepening in color!
These are easily packaged up in mason jars for homemade gifts, and I just printed out my labels on sticker paper I found at Office Max. There is a link with a free printable PDF for the labels that I made below; you can just type or write in your name after the “Enjoy – ” to personalize them if you wish!
- 2 1/2 cups sugar **for sugar free version, see below note**
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups cocoa (dutch process is preferred, but use your favorite!)
- 1-3 Tbsp sea salt (my preference is about 2 Tbsp)
- 1 cup dry milk powder
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
- 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips
In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Heat over medium heat until boiling, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Brush down the sides with a damp pastry brush to avoid sugar crystals, and stop stirring. Cook until the caramel is a dark amber color (not stirring), swirling every so often. Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla (be careful - it will bubble violently). Pour the caramel onto a parchment lined baking sheet to harden (at least one hour).
Once caramel is cool, break into pieces, and place in a food processor. Pulverize the caramel into a fine powder. Add the cocoa, sea salt, dry milk powder, and coconut sugar. Process until well mixed. Add in the chocolate, and process until mixture is a fine powder. Put mix into pint size mason jars (or other airtight container).
To make hot cocoa, stir 3 tablespoons of mix into 8 oz. of hot milk or water.
**Note: You can make a sugar free version by replacing the sugar and coconut sugar with erythritol (a sugar alcohol that doesn't affect blood sugar). You won't use water, and you will need 1 Tbsp of agave nectar (which adds a tiny bit of sugar).
Heat the 2 1/2 cups erythritol with 1 Tbsp agave nectar in medium saucepan, and stir until dissolved. Heat until it is a dark amber color, without stirring, just as above. Follow the remaining steps from the above recipe, using erythritol instead of coconut sugar also.
I made this version for my grandma, who is diabetic.
recipe adapted from Pennies on a Platter