A Quest for Cocoa

not the perfect cup of cocoa, but not terrible
Folks, it's a loose ends-y kind of night here at The Public Kitchen. I went to work today, as if it was any other week, but at this time tomorrow, my parents, my Grandfather and I will be in Philadelphia. My brother goes to a very fancy graduate school there and he and his wife are hosting both of their families this Thanksgiving. Or should I say "Mc'sGiving." Kirk had the good sense to marry an Irish redhead and her maiden name would also be filed behind the "Mc" tab. Last year was the first annual Mc'sGiving... but more on that later.

Right now, my head is filled with flight confirmation numbers, meet-up locations, fluid ounce regulations and a curiosity about full body scans. And it is cold out, my friends! My hundred year-old apartment building isn't exactly energy efficient and the gaps between the window panes and window frames are telling me: cold!

Saturday was the first day this season (what should we call this season? Not really fall, not really winter? Fallinterish?) that actually felt seasonal and I cut across several lanes of traffic to pull into a grocery store when the drizzle falling on my windshield reminded me about the existence of hot chocolate.

Maybe hot cocoa seems like kids' stuff, but I happen to love kids' stuff. With milk and marshmallows in hand, I drove back to my apartment and started looking for recipes. During past cocoa-cravings, I've just followed the instructions on the Hershey's unsweetened cocoa container and that's turned out fine. But last Saturday, I wanted something a little better than "fine." The internet turned up many interesting sounding recipes... white chocolate cocoa, Aztec hot chocolate, brown sugar cocoa. The list goes on. Alton Brown had an intriguing recipe for a just-add-water cocoa mix. The recipe is here and it sounds like the beginnings of a wonderful holiday or hostess gift: a jar full of cocoa mix, a cellophane bag of marshmallows, all tied up with baker's twine (mark my words, that string shall be the hot gift wrap accessory of this holiday season). Unfortunately, Alton's recipe was fraught with ingredients I don't tend to have on hand.

I ended up with something that was like two cups of milk, a teaspoon of sugar and five ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate. It came together nicely, but when I tasted it: too much. Too thick, too sweet, too rich. I added a pinch of salt and some cayenne pepper and diluted it with coffee. It did the job: I watched the ran fall on the highly scenic parking lot below my window and sipped my cocoa.

I want to find a better recipe (any suggestions are incredibly welcome), but that will have to wait. Tomorrow, I'm off on a little Thanksgiving adventure. I hope to talk to you about my absolute favorite holiday that I made up, Friend Thanksgiving, while I'm out of town, but that will depend on my computer situation (don't have a laptop, feel free to buy me one). If I can't blog from PA, I will once I'm back in CA. And you don't want to miss the Tale of Friend Thanksgiving or the fantastic all-in-one turkey/gravy/stuffing recipe that always (well... almost always if pyrotechnics come into play) turns out perfectly.