Our Favorite Hot Chocolate Mix!

The kids are clamoring for hot chocolate now that winter's here. Usually, I just heat up a pot of milk with some TJ's Sipping Chocolate. But winter time is also gift time and wouldn't it be nice to come up with a special hot chocolate mix for us and our friends? It would also satisfy the itch I've had to gift those "layered-in-a-jar" mixes. With the help of my guinea pigs, aka my family, I set out to create our own favorite hot chocolate mix.

After looking at dozens of recipes, I started by eliminating powdered coffee creamer which contains unhealthy trans fats. I also nixed powdered milk since I'm using milk rather than water. And in any case, I'm not too crazy about the taste of reconstituted-milk.

I then started with an Epicurious recipe, using equal amounts of cocoa powder and powdered sugar, but the kids and even my husband complained it wasn't sweet enough. So for Round Two, I used a 2 to1 sugar to cocoa powder ratio which fit the bill for us.

Next up was addressing the creaminess factor. The mouthfeel was a bit thin, no doubt because I used 1% milk. I'm sure if I used whole milk or heavy cream, as suggested by some recipes, it would be plenty creamy, but I don't regularly stock those. And I'm not sure I want to drink a cup of cream. Since I know I'll always have 1% milk on hand, that's what I worked with. Adding a bit of cornstarch, which was used in some of the recipes, did the trick.

The kids and hubby loved this cup and we could have stopped right there. But I noticed some recipes used both cocoa powder and actual chocolate. What's the difference between cocoa powder and chocolate? Well, chocolate has lots of cocoa butter which is why it's rich and creamy! Cocoa powder is the dry powder left after pressing out much of the cocoa butter, so although it may not be as rich as chocolate, ounce for ounce it has more chocolate flavor.

With cocoa powder providing the intense chocolatey flavor, I added a few semi-sweet, mini-chocolate chips to amp up the richness, resulting in our favorite mix of all. Adding marshmallows and crushed peppermint candy is optional, but they look great layered in a glass jar and the kids love 'em, so........go for it!

If making for yourself, put all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine; then store any unused mix in an airtight container. If you're gifting, layer ingredients in the order given. I used the Weck 26 oz glass jar and everything fit perfectly.

Our Favorite Hot Chocolate Mix
Makes one 26 oz jar of mix; approx. 3 1/2 cups of mix; enough for 8-12 cups of hot chocolate depending on your taste.

In a 26 oz glass jar, layer in the following order:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder, natural or dutch-processed [I used Hershey's Special Dark.]
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips or chopped chocolate, preferably semi-sweet or bittersweet
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy [I used a hammer to crush the candies.]
1/2 cup mini-marshmallows

Secure lid and attach tag or label with these instructions:
"Mix jar contents in a bowl.  Use 3-6 tablespoons of mix per 1 cup of milk depending on your taste. Warm over low heat until steaming hot and chocolate and peppermint have melted. Store any unused mix in airtight container."

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