Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows

Hello everyone!  I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but the cold weather has officially come to stay here, and I couldn't love it more!  I love the whole snuggle under a blanket on the couch with a dog (or two...or three...or, in our case, five...), with a hot cup of either tea or hot chocolate.  While there's nothing wrong with the powder mix, they tend to be a little bit grainy and gritty, and just a little bit flat.  Which can be disappointing, especially when you are wanting hot chocolate for a special occasion, like Christmas morning, a winter party, maybe a kids sleepover or something along those lines.  
And, if we're being honest, what's hot chocolate without marshmallows?  The marshmallows that come in the hot chocolate powder mix are just little specks of something that's supposed to look like a marshmallow, but dissipate the second hot liquid touch them leaving you sad.  Well, it leaves me sad, anyway.
You may have heard how complicated, or messy making marshmallows at home can be, but you're about to find out just how easy they really are.  Making the marshmallows was the most time involved aspect of this recipe, and they only took about 20 minutes of hands on time.
Are you curious?  Read on to see how you can very (very!) easily make this at home:

Here's your grocery list:
For the hot chocolate:
14 oz sweetened condensed milk (1 can)
16 oz (2 C) semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 C milk (I used whole milk for extra creaminess)
1 1/2 C whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the marshmallows:
3 (.25 oz) envelops of plain gelatin*
1 C of water, divided
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1 C light corn syrup
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C powdered sugar
1/2 C corn starch
Nonstick spray

*You can find gelatin with the puddings and Jello section of your grocery store.  I found mine on the top shelf - they usually come in a box of 4; you'll need 3 envelops, .25 oz each, for a total of .75 oz.
Let's get started!!  This hot chocolate recipe is going to go really quickly, because it is just that easy.  Start off by pouring your sweetened condensed milk into your slow cooker**, along with the chocolate chips, whole milk, vanilla, and whipping cream.  Turn your slow cooker on low, and let this cook for 3-4 hours.  That's it.  Give it a stir before serving, to swirl the chocolate through, but this hot chocolate is amazing.  It doesn't look like it would have a very chocolate-y flavor, but to me, this tasted just like a melted chocolate chip (you know how when you break a chocolate chip cookie open, that's just out of the oven, and the chocolate chip is all melty and amazing?  That's what this hot chocolate tastes like.  Seriously.)
**You can also make this in a heavy bottom pot - just place everything into the pot, and cook over medium low heat, until the chocolate melts, and everything mixes together.  If you're having a party, where everyone is getting their own drink when they'd like, I'd go with the slow cooker option.  If you're wanting something where everyone is going to be drinking it at the same time (like for Christmas morning), I'd go with the stove top option.  

Here's the whipping cream, and I added 2 cups of the whole milk 3 times!  I didn't feel like dragging out my larger measuring cup when I can just use some basic math to get the same thing.

Add the chocolate chips, slap the lid on, and let this do its thing for a few hours.  I played with my daughter, and put together a piece of Ikea furniture.  Good times, good times....
After a few hours, you'll get something that looks like this.  It doesn't look like much, but give it a good stir, and it is good to go!  Top it with some homemade marshmallows if you'd like, or just drink as is!  

...and, speaking of marshmallows, let's see how to whip up some!  
To start off with, put the gelatin along with 1/2 C of water into a bowl, and set aside so that the gelatin can bloom.  Add the other 1/2 C of water, sugar, corn syrup and salt in a medium sauce pan, cover and cook over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes.

After 4 minutes, continue to cook uncovered, for about another 7-8 minutes, or until the mixture reaches 240* (you can easily find candy thermometers at any store nowadays, but it should reach the temp by the 7-8 minute mark).
While you're waiting, dig out a 9"x13" glass dish, and give it a quick spritz with some nonstick spray, and set that aside.  Once your mixture hits 240*, give your gelatin a quick whisk, and get ready for some fun!

Okay!  We hit 240*!  Take the pot off of your stove, and very carefully (and I mean, very carefully...don't forget, this is 240*!!  This stuff is HOT!) pour this into your waiting gelatin, with your mixer running on low.  Pour it all in.  Once it is all in, slowly move the speed up on your mixer, until you have it on max speed.  Step away, and let this whip for 15 minutes.  You really want to whip tons of air into this.  Look at all of that steam coming out of the mixing bowl...this stuff really is hot!

A couple of minutes in, this mixture has turned white and is just coming right along!  Yep, looking like marshmallow fluff!
While you're waiting for the 15 minutes to tick by, combine the corn starch and powdered sugar together, and dust your 9"x13" pan.  This way, your marshmallows won't stick to your pan.

During the last minute of whipping, add in your vanilla.  After 15 minutes, this is what you have.  I took lots of pictures of this, because it is really pretty!

Pour all of this goodness out into your prepared dish  - this is actually much easier to do than you would think.  If you are worried about it, you can spritz your spatula with some nonstick spray, but I have a silicone spatula, and didn't have any problems.  You'll want to smooth the top of this out as much as possible.  Sprinkle the top with lots and lots (and lots) of the corn starch/powdered sugar mix, and let this sit, at room temperature, for at least 4 hours.  Overnight is best, if you can wait that long.  I could not, but maybe you can!
When I was ready to cut these up, I took a large cutting board, covered the 9"x13" pan, and flipped the whole thing out.  Part of the marshmallows stuck to the pan, but I was able to easily pull them out of the pan, no problem.  You can cut these up any way you'd like.  If you're doing these for a theme party, use a cutter and cut them up to match the theme!  Winter theme?  Use a snowflake cutter!  Doing them for Valentine's day?  Use a heart cutter!  Making them for a gift?  Cut them into squares, and dip them into some chocolate...I wish I had done that.  That would have been beautiful.  I'll do it next time!  You're going to need the cornstarch and powdered sugar mix nearby, because this could get very sticky.  If your knife (or whatever cutter you're using) starts getting sticky, dust some of the powdered sugar mix over your knife and/or the marshmallow sticky side.  I cut these just into roughly 1"-2" squares.

As you cut them up into the shape you want, toss them back into the 9"x13" pan, and toss them around the remaining powdered sugar mix, so that the marshmallow is totally coated.

These marshmallows are fluffy, and tender and the stuff dreams are made of.  I hope that this gives you some confidence to try these.  They are really not hard to make, and there is a huge taste difference between homemade marshmallows and the ones you can buy in the stores!