Here's our new favorite hot cocoa recipe: a milky, comforting mix of cocoa and malted milk powder from Alton Brown. Notice we didn't say hot chocolate; hot cocoa is different from hot chocolate, and here's why.
Hot chocolate is almost dessert, made with real chocolate and melted into creamy milk with plenty of sugar. It's thick, and ideally more of a dessert, ready to be spiked adult-style with rum or bourbon.
Hot cocoa, on the other hand, is a child's drink. It's a comforting mix of powdered cocoa with lots of milk, a touch of sugar, and, in our own modification of Alton Brown's great recipe, a touch of malted milk powder. This isn't a very rich drink. It tastes more of milk than of chocolate. It's the right thing to sip on a cold, blustery fall afternoon, while curled up with a book. It's just the right thing to send you off to sleep at night. And if you love good fresh milk, this is a wonderful way to drink it.
If you're jonesing for a thick and chocolatey drink, this isn't it. Hot chocolate it isn't. This is hot cocoa and it's exactly what we're craving these days.
This mix from Alton Brown is simple and quick, and you can mix it up in great quantities for drinking or for gifting. He smartly calls for powdered sugar instead of regular granulated sugar; the powdered sugar dissolves much better in hot liquid. He adds a bit of cornstarch for smoothness and richness, and a tiny pinch of cayenne for warmth.
Brown also includes a great deal of powdered milk, which we replaced with malted milk powder for a malty flavor. We also usually make this up with milk, in addition to all that milk powder, so it's milky to the max! Just the way we like it.
• Get the recipe: Hot Cocoa from Alton Brown at Food Network
What's your own favorite hot cocoa recipe? Or do you prefer hot chocolate?
Related: Classic Combo: Cocoa and Toast
(Images: Faith Durand)