Hot Cocoa for when you want to watch holiday specials – not live one

It’s not secret that I’m a housewife, and I love it.  For the month of December, I try and come up with festive (or at least fun) things to do every day, to keep holiday spirits high.  When I found this idea, I was all sorts of excited, what goes better with Christmas than hot cocoa and marshmallows?  I had this vision in my head of cuddling up under a blanket, listening to the Caps game with big mugs of steaming happiness, little squares of sugary goodness floating on top, little plate of baked goodies on the coffee table.  But where in my head It’s a Wonderful Life, my luck is all National Lampoon’s.  Just call me Griswold.

Throwing together the cocoa went off without a hitch – it’s a matter of combing dry goods.  This recipe is from Alton Brown, and if you were to ask my husband, his word is gospel.  I can’t entirely argue – his show “Good Eats” made me better understand basic science better than K-12 in Ohio public schools.  His other recipes have never steered me wrong, so why not give this a spin? I’m telling you folks, this is so much better than Swiss Miss. I can’t rightly say I know how many cups this makes, but it’s about four cups of dry powder. Now, when you read the ingredients, don’t freak out over the cayenne.  I added the recommended pinch, and while it doesn’t add the heat or spicy kick you’d expect, it does add a depth of flavor I haven’t experienced elsewhere.  If you’re a heat seeker like some of my loved ones, then by all means, season to taste.

Much better than Swiss Miss
Much better than Swiss Miss

Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Mix (from

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste

Whisk together, and keep in an airtight container.  To enjoy, put three tablespoons in a mug, and fill with hot water.

Since my husband and I love working in the kitchen together, I thought the marshmallows would be a fun something to do during the game.  I also have a bad habit of picking out a recipe without fully reading it, so the afternoon we planned to make them I found out that the recipe calls for them to sit out overnight.  Woops. But no big deal, we can have cocoa tomorrow night, too.  We’ll just throw in a movie instead of listening to the game.  Well, the dear husband got home later than usual, and then we had dinner, and after a big of cleanup, we get the marshmallows underway.

This was a freaking disaster.  I can’t even in good conscience post the recipe.  If you want to give it a spin, I wish you the best, and you can find it here.  I probably should have taken it as an omen when we couldn’t find packets of regular unflavored gelatin; we settled on the vegan alternative.  I still haven’t decided if that was a factor in the downfall.  The box warned us that it was quick-setting, so we opted not to soak it like the recipe said, afraid it’d set up before we added the rest of the ingredients.

Sugary goo, not at all marshmallowy
Sugary goo, not at all marshmallowy

Then we started to get the rest of it on the stove and realized we had a little over half of the needed corn syrup.  But it’ll be ok, I read somewhere an alternative, and we have the stuff for that, so we’ll make up the difference. We got it all boiling to the desired temperature, now time to mix with the gelatin.  Into the mixer it goes, with the extract,  turned on medium to get thick and white.  It takes forever.  I even let it go longer than recommended because it doesn’t look thick or white enough.  I spread it into the buttered pan, and wonder why they told us to put it in a 9′ x 13′ and cover.  So then there’s nothing left to do but wait.

The next day, after supper and a few errands, we open the lid.  Nothing had changed.  I cut them, but their consistency was like hardened frosting, if it had been made with granulated sugar  Knowing we weren’t going to toss them in powdered sugar, I took a taste from what stuck to the knife.  And if you do try this – I’m not playing around, only use about a third of the advised extract.  Times are rare when a flavor is so joltingly strong that it literally sends a shock to my jaw.  Not my teeth, I really mean the hinge of my jaw.  I can’t explain it any other way.  I looked at my husband and apologized.  He assured me that for as many adventures we’ve shared, a misadventure here or there isn’t the end of the world. (This is why he’s mine, all mine!)  He took a taste, and we agreed to dump them in the trash.  We had a bag of minis in the pantry, anyway.  He cut us some candy cane brownies and poured the cocoa. It was time to cuddle up to a Chirstmas movie.  Life is pretty wonderful.

Tip of the week: I know I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating.  If you’re greasing a pan for something you’re not baking, like in these treats here, use butter instead of spray or lard. It melds better with the flavors of your goodies.