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Spiced Hot Chocolate Recipe: Drink to Your Health!
The Long and Turbulent History of Hot Chocolate
Chocolate was originally used as a drink by the ancient Mayans, known at that time as “Xocolotl.” Xocolotl was made of roasted cocoa beans that were ground to a paste with cornmeal, chilies and vanilla, and was served cold. Although honey was occasionally added to the mix, the drink was normally unsweetened.
When the Spanish Conquistadors came to the Americas, they disliked the drink, complaining that it was bitter and unpalatable. Despite this, they brought cocoa beans back to Europe with them, and began to experiment. Through these experiments they found that the flavor was greatly improved by adding sugar, and learned how to process chocolate into both bar and powder form. Once they had improved upon these processes, they were able to perfect the flavor of drinking chocolate by using milk, rather than water, trading the chilies for cinnamon, and serving the drink hot.
The hot chocolate beverage perfected in Europe is still a beloved drink to this day, but all too often we take the shortcut of adding a bit of milk or water to the contents of a packet and popping a mug into the microwave. While some of these instant hot chocolate mixes can be pretty tasty, why not try making it from scratch? Sure, it takes a little longer, but it’s still a pretty quick process. Making your own hot chocolate also makes for a tastier, and healthier drink.
Healthier, You Say?
Why, yes! We’ve all heard that chocolate is full of antioxidants, so it should come as no surprise that hot chocolate can have health benefits. In the recipe below I have included some of the traditional spices that the ancient Mayans and Spaniards included in their drinking chocolate, which also contain some pretty nice health benefits:
· Chocolate: Chock full of antioxidants, which contribute to longevity and have anti-aging properties. Chocolate contributes to heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Chocolate also contains serotonin and stimulates endorphins, so it acts as an anti-depressant and can help to improve your mood.
· Chili Peppers: Full of vitamin C, and a natural chemical called capsaicin. Capsaicin acts to lower blood sugar, improves heart health by facilitating blood circulation, helps to relieve pain, acts as an anti-inflammatory, clears congestion, aids in weight loss…the list goes on and on! Chili peppers have long been known for their ability to heal or prevent nearly every illness imaginable, including cancer.
· Cinnamon: Said to lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and act as an anti-bacterial agent. Cinnamon is high in manganese, fiber, iron and calcium. It also is reputed to help prevent cancer.
· Vanilla: Also known to have antioxidant properties and reputed to prevent cancer.
Spiced Hot Chocolate Recipe
- 1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 Tbs cocoa powder
- A pinch salt
- A pinch cinnamon
- A pinch ground red pepper
- 1 Tbs brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- In a small pan, mix chocolate, cocoa powder, brown sugar and spices.
- Over medium-low heat, pour a small amount of the milk into the pan and whisk into the chocolate mixture until melted and smooth.
- Whisking constantly, slowly add in the remaining milk. When all the milk is incorporated, add the vanilla.
- Once heated through, remove the pan from the heat. Whisk vigorously to froth the hot chocolate. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!
About the Recipe
This recipe was formulated to taste delicious and to offer all the health benefits listed above. Both bar and powdered chocolate are used to create a rich taste and creamy texture. The salt helps to give body to the flavor of the chocolate; only a small amount is used, but it is crucial! Try it without and you will taste the difference. Also be careful to add only a very small amount of the red pepper, as a larger amount could very easily overpower the drink. For the milk, I suggest using whole; the higher the milkfat, the better! Finally, be sure to use a whisk when preparing your hot chocolate. This helps to make a smooth and even consistency, and also creates a lovely froth on top.