My Mom, known around these parts as Nana, does a lot of things very well. She remembers the name of just about everyone she’s ever met, plays a mean piano and a killer game of chess, makes stupendous lumpia, and always delivers a hug right when you need one (even if you don’t know you need one…). And Nana isn’t your average, ordinary Nana… To hear her grandkids tell it, she’s a bit magical.
She talks to her garden, creek stomps, climbs trees, fixes boo-boos, spins fantastic tales, rides her bike down dirt roads at warp speed wearing a long skirt, engineers popcorn explosions, walks barefooted in the snow, drinks full-caffeine espresso as a nightcap, wrestles like a pro and cuddles better than a dog*.
*That last one comes from my fourth born. Believe you me, from my boy that is a monstrously huge compliment.
Nana also makes the world’s best hot chocolate. Oh, her hot chocolate. Oh, yeah. After a hard day of hopping through snowy fields like rabbits and swinging from icy branches there is nothing quite like Nana’s Spanish Style Hot Chocolate to warm you down to your toes. Nana’s hot chocolate is like warm velvet; It’s thick, rich, smooth, and sticks to your lips like pudding. It’s not too sweet. It’s the bees-knees*.
*Incidentally, even the bees are happy at Nana’s house. When they wander in, she gets a clean mason jar and gently returns them to their native habitat.
Nana makes hers thick, but drinkable, very much like the hot chocolate served with churros in Spain or in Italy or France. Sometimes, though, when the muse strikes, I thicken it up to the point where it’s strictly spoon-fare. When I go that far, I almost always gild the lily, as I am wont to do, and top with chocolate shavings or ground cinnamon.
Hot chocolate pudding. Can you imagine something more decadent? (Well, if you accidentally splashed a thimbleful of dark rum or brandy over the top, that might be more indulgent.) Once you have this under your belt, you never have to worry about what you’ll make for dessert. I regularly bust this out after dinner with friends, sledding parties, and necessary moments*.
*I have my necessary moments; Everyone does. I mean the moments when only chocolate stands between you and googly eyes and head-spinning and pea soup spewing.
When Nana wrote down the recipe for her hot chocolate for her grandboys, she included this instruction, “Think of Nana and warm hugs (and the icy creek!)” … And look out, ’cause Nana’s coming at you with a big, warm hug and she just might ask you to climb a tree.
Nana’s Spanish Style Hot Chocolate (Hot Chocolate Pudding)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2-4 tablespoons sugar, or more, depending on sweet you like it (I prefer raw sugar for the caramel-like flavor it imparts here)
- 4 tablespoons good quality Dutch process cocoa powder
- 2-4 tablespoons arrowroot powder or cornstarch (use less for a more drinkable product and more for a thick, pudding-like finish.)
Optional, for garnish:
- Whipped Cream
- Shaved Chocolate
- Cinnamon Sugar
- Graham Crackers, Waffles, or Pretzels for dipping
Whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder and arrowroot powder or cornstarch in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan. Take care to smash any lumps. Whisk the milk into the powder. The powder will not dissolve in the milk, so don’t worry. The goal is to simply to mix it at this point.
Place the pan over a medium flame or heat and whisk constantly. Watch for the following changes. First, the powder will dissolve and it will begin to look like chocolate milk. Next, the mixture will darken and begin to thicken slightly. Take care to scrape the whisk across the bottom and sides at this point to prevent scorching.
Finally, the mixture will become very bubbly and thick. When it reaches this point, remove the pot from the burner immediately.
Spoon or ladle immediately into serving dishes. Garnish as desired.