[First published in November 2009]
I’ve received lovely notes from many of you inquiring after my absence here. First, let me thank you all for caring enough to ask. Second, let me explain why I’m reposting this.
My husband and I have visited his Aunt Patti in the Houston Heights area the last couple years just before Christmas. Patti welcomed us lavishly and generously, putting us and other family members in a bed and breakfast near her home, treating us to delicious meals, making us feel at home and loved and special beyond words. Aunt Patti’s sweet tooth is legendary.
This year, my sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law and various uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews made homemade meals for her (due to her MS, she was no longer able to cook for herself), dozens and dozens of cookies, cakes, chocolate toffee, breads, and anything else that we thought would sound good to her.
We brought silly Christmas ornaments to play ‘White Elephant’ and to decorate a small tree for her bedroom so she would laugh when she looked at it. And believe me, those ornaments were laughable.
We talked, we laughed, we ate. And we ate and ate and ate. And when it was time to go, we hugged. We talked about how we were already looking forward to seeing each other next Christmas. Aunt Patti said how much she had loved the hot-chocolate-on-a-stick I had mailed to her the previous year. I promised I would send a batch sometime shortly after the New Year. I meant it.
On January 3rd, we received a phone call from my husband’s brother that Aunt Patti’s house had burned to the ground and that both she and her caregiver, Lisa, were missing and presumed dead. I was sure he was wrong. I hoped he was wrong. He had to be wrong.
He was not.
In the last three days, both Aunt Patti’s and Lisa Sanders’ remains have been found. I can’t send another batch of Hot Chocolate on a Stick to Aunt Patti. And while that’s the least of the concerns, when you miss someone, the little things seem bigger. I had failed to deliver on a promise. So do me a favor, would you? Please make a batch of these. Eat them or -better yet- share them with someone else. Patti would’ve loved it.
In Loving Memory of Evelyn “Patti” Worthington and with eternal thanks to her caregiver Mary Elizabeth “Lisa” Sanders.
Now that I have the attention of the entire state of Minnesota, please allow me to expound.
This is one of the most clever ideas I’ve seen out of the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Circle lately. (And they’re no creative slouches over at King Arthur.) In the most recent e-newsletter* from their test kitchen they included a recipe for Cocoa Blocks.
*If you’d like to receive their free e-newsletter, you can click this link and look for the sign-up box in the lower right hand corner of the page.
Oh sweet merciful heavens. Cocoa blocks. Very utilitarian name, no? Nothing against my King Arthur folks, because I really do love them, but I think the name doesn’t do justice to these little beauties. I’ve renamed them. Henceforth, they shall be called Hot Chocolate On A Stick.
Hot Chocolate on a Stick is a creamy chocolate confection that is much like an ultra-rich fudge. You can, as the new title indicates, put these blocks of chocolatey goodness on sticks for ease in swirling it in hot milk or nibbling.
Or, if you’re a rebel (or not from the Midwest), you can simply leave the squares alone and stir them into your hot drinks. Or you can go another step, as I am wont to do, and skewer a marshmallow on top of the block of chocolate.
And since we’re playing with marshmallows already, why not make them homemade*? That opens up the possibilities of all kinds of decadent flavor combinations; mocha chocolate with cocoa marshmallows, orange chocolate with vanilla marshmallows, plain chocolate with raspberry marshmallows, or pure chocolate and vanilla marshmallows.
*Last year Val posted a homemade marshmallow recipe in our Homemade Christmas Gifts series. (See that post here!) Homemade marshmallows, if you’ve never had them, are a completely different animal than those little round foam-like jobbies you get in bags at the grocery store. They’re ethereally light, sweet and endlessly customizable. Have a hankering for an orange flavored marshmallow without the nasty food coloring? It can be done. Want a mocha marshmallow? (Just try finding THAT at your local mega-mart.) It’s only moments away. You get my drift, right?
So if you combine luscious, velvety, rich fudge with light-as-air homemade marshmallows it should follow that what you’ve created is heavenly. And it is. Oh, it is! Not to put too fine a point on it, but having these in my kitchen was the only thing standing between me and a potential sale of my children to the gypsies early career apprenticeship commitment for my children. I hid in the bathroom with a ‘Hot Chocolate on a Stick’ and nibbled my irritation away.
I could’ve taken a cup of hot milk to the bathroom with me, but I was in a hurry, people. I needed the chocolate and I needed it fast. The kids, on the other hand, found the stash while I was hiding (and small price to pay for the peace it brought me) and stirred theirs into hot cups of milk. I hear tell that they enjoyed it immensely. The chocolate rings around their mouths bore out their testimony.
Kid tested. Mother approved.
May I recommend that you whip up a batch or two or three of these? Keep one batch for yourself. Wrap one batch in plastic and pretty ribbons for gift-giving. And that last batch? Well, give it away one at a time to your kids’ teachers, bus drivers, your preacher, the mail carrier, the elderly man or woman down the road who lost their spouse this year, the gal in the apartment two doors down who looks a little lonely, or anyone else who looks like they could use a good dose of seasonal cheer.
First, a marshmallow refresher!
This is mainly Val’s recipe, but I’ve added a few of my own notes.
- .75-oz unflavored gelatin (3 envelopes of Knox gelatin)
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2/3 cups light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or other flavor extract)
- Confectioners’ sugar
Line 9 x 9-inch or 8 x 8-inch pan with plastic wrap and lightly oil it using your fingers or non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Soak for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil. As soon as it is boiling, set the timer and allow to boil hard for 1 minute.
Carefully pour the boiling syrup into soaked gelatin and turn on the mixer, using the whisk attachment, starting on low and moving up to high speed. Add the salt and beat for between 10 and 12 minutes, or until fluffy and mostly cooled to almost room temperature. After it reaches that stage, add in the extract and beat to incorporate.
Grease your hands and a rubber or silicone scraper with neutral oil and transfer marshmallow into the prepared pan. Use your greased hands to press the marshmallow into the pan evenly. Take another piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap and press lightly on top of the marshmallow, creating a seal. Let mixture sit for a few hours, or overnight, until cooled and firmly set.
Sprinkle a cutting surface very generously with confectioner’s sugar.
Remove marshmallow from pan and lay on top of the sugar.
Dust the top generously with sugar as well.
Use a large, sharp knife to cut into squares.
Separate pieces and toss to coat all surfaces with the sugar.
Store in an airtight container.
Now for the Hot Chocolate on a Stick!
Hot Chocolate on a Stick
Scroll to the bottom for an easy-print version of this recipe!
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (1 1/4 cups)
- 3 cups semisweet chocolate (3 cups chopped chocolate bars or chips)
- 3/4 cup unsweetened baking chocolate (4 ounces)
- wooden sticks, lollipop sticks, candy canes or bamboo skewers
- optional, crushed candy canes, marshmallows and/or cocoa powder
Line an 8 x 8-inch pan or a 9 x 9-inch pan with foil and set aside.
Combine the cream and sweetened condensed milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Heat until it is steaming, but not boiling, stirring occasionally to keep from scorching.
Add all of the chocolate and remove from the heat. Allow the chocolate to melt, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, whisk firmly until it is thick and shiny. You can add a few drops of flavoring extract or oil at this point, or add some powdered espresso or vanilla. Whisk vigorously again to incorporate the flavoring (if used.)
Use a rubber or silicone spatula to spread the mixture out evenly in your prepared, foil-lined pan.
Allow to cool at room temperature 12 hours or overnight so that it firms slowly.
Take the fudge from the pan and remove the foil. Place on a cutting board.
Using a knife heated with hot water and wiped dry, cut the fudge into 36 equal-sized cubes. You can either stick a lollipop stick (or candy cane) into the center of each block or leave as is. Additionally, you can press the cut sides of the fudge into crushed candy canes, roll them in cocoa powder or top with marshmallows.
Eat immediately or wrap tightly and store at room temperature.
If you make more than one batch and use different flavorings for the marshmallows or chocolate, you can use different colored ribbons to indicate the flavors. Silver for mocha chocolate and vanilla marshmallows, gold for plain chocolate and raspberry marshmallows, for instance…
Hey… Someone’s snuck off with my raspberry marshmallow Hot Chocolate on a Stick…
Oh well, I’ll make more.
Remember, it’s Christmas time!
Hot Chocolate on a Stick
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 14- ounce can sweetened condensed milk 1 1/4 cups
- 3 cups semisweet chocolate 3 cups chopped chocolate bars or chips
- 3/4 cup unsweetened baking chocolate 4 ounces
- wooden sticks lollipop sticks, candy canes or bamboo skewers
- optional crushed candy canes, marshmallows and/or cocoa powder
- Line an 8 x 8-inch pan or a 9 x 9-inch pan with foil and set aside.
- Combine the cream and sweetened condensed milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Heat until it is steaming, but not boiling, stirring occasionally to keep from scorching.
- Add all of the chocolate and remove from the heat. Allow the chocolate to melt, undisturbed, for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, whisk firmly until it is thick and shiny. You can add a few drops of flavoring extract or oil at this point, or add some powdered espresso or vanilla. Whisk vigorously again to incorporate the flavoring (if used.)
- Use a rubber or silicone spatula to spread the mixture out evenly in your prepared, foil-lined pan. Allow to cool at room temperature 12 hours or overnight so that it firms slowly.
- Take the fudge from the pan and remove the foil. Place on a cutting board.
- Using a knife heated with hot water and wiped dry, cut the fudge into 36 equal-sized cubes. You can either stick a lollipop stick (or candy cane) into the center of each block or leave as is. Additionally, you can press the cut sides of the fudge into crushed candy canes, roll them in cocoa powder or top with marshmallows.
- Wrap tightly and store at room temperature.