Chelsea Zwieg

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

One of the best things about working at the bakery is constant access to all things sweet. It really never gets old. Although, this constant contact with all things sugar related also leads to embarrassing situations like leaving work, running errands and coming home 2 hours later to realize that I have chocolate smeared all over my neck. Or walking through Target after work on a busy Saturday only to notice later that my once black leggings have been attacked by a gigantic smear of powdered sugar right on my butt. It's fine guys, I'm a baker. That's what I'm telling everyone in my head as I proudly and cluelessly march my powdered sugar butt right on out of the store. In reality they probably all just think I forgot to shower. They're not wrong. Maybe I just shouldn't go out in public until I'm sure I've cleaned all signs of work off of me, but if I haven't learned my lesson yet I probably never will. As long as I manage to clean all smudges of red velvet batter, which looks like straight up blood, I don't think I'll get arrested.

But on the more positive side of always being around bakery is the chance to play around with any and every ingredient I could ever want to bake with. This was only intensified a few weeks ago when I was in Las Vegas for the IBIE (baking convention) and pretty much got to eat my way through a gigantic expo hall of ingredient samples. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it. Never mind that our bakery has no need for passion fruit truffles or almond paste cookies, I'll take 20 ma'am. But there are things we do need, like ridiculously good chocolate. One chocolate vendor in particular loaded us down with three full size bars each of insanely wonderful chocolate. And so what was I to do but come home and turn it into the richest, creamiest mug of hot chocolate I ever did make.

I've always been a firm believer in hot chocolate over hot cocoa (the difference being melted chocolate vs. cocoa powder). Melting the chocolate on the stovetop, whisking in some milk or cream and letting it simmer away for a little bit produces the thickest, richest and just all around best hot chocolate you can make. I will make exceptions for hot cocoa, namely the Swiss Miss packets with the fake little marshmallows because I love that stuff. But if I am making it at home, it's hot chocolate all the way. But. There's always a but. While I was making this hot chocolate, I first tried to stick to my basic chocolate to milk ratio. However, once I added the caramel and the salt (wayyy too much on my first try. oops.), I felt like it wasn't actually chocolatey enough. The other flavors had snuffed out some of that chocolate flavor to the point where it only made me a little weak in the knees rather than fully knocking me flat on the floor. Unacceptable. So in this case, I used melted chocolate as the base but also stirred in 1 tbsp. of cocoa powder, just to make sure there was no doubt in anyone's mind that there might be caramel and sea salt but chocolate is still queen bee.

And of course, it's all finished off with a giant dollop of whipped cream. The decision between whipped cream or marshmallows on my hot chocolate is enough to keep me up at night so trust me, I fully support you using marshmallows in place of the cream. Just make sure they're are enough that they spill over the sides of the mug. None of that tiny island of a lonely marshmallow business allowed.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

Serves 2-4

| Ingredients |

  • 5 ounces chocolate, chopped (you can use milk, dark or a combo. Just make sure you use what you love.)
  • 3 cups milk or cream
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup caramel candies, melted
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • caramels and chocolate shavings, for garnish

| Instructions |

  • In a medium saucepan, melt chocolate over medium heat. Stir often to make sure it doesn't burn. If it seems like the chocolate might burn before it melts completely, add a splash of milk to help it along. Add the rest of the milk and whisk until smooth. Add the cocoa powder and whisk to combine.
  • While whisking, slowly stream in the caramel and continue to stir until combined. Scrape the bottom as your stir to make sure no caramel has settled there. Add the salt, to taste. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream until stiff peaks form. When I am adding it to already sweet hot chocolate, I like to keep the cream unsweetened so it can just play the creamy role it was born to. If you want a more traditional whipped cream, add powdered sugar to taste and a splash of vanilla.
  • Pour the hot chocolate into mugs, top with whipped cream, extra caramel candies and chocolate shavings.
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