Powdered Hot Cocoa Finally Gets Its Due

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Real hot cocoa, the stuff made from scratch, has its indisputable charms, but powdered hot chocolate may be winter’s perfect drink.

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Every once in a while, a food opinion piece gets at something essential, something it suddenly seems as if you always knew but were never quite able to articulate. For those of us who nostalgically remember running in from sledding or skating, fort building or just shoveling the front walk on snowy winter childhood days and diving right into a steaming cup of powdered hot cocoa, a paean to what some may consider winter’s perfect drink written by Grub Street association editor Chris Crowley may resonate big-time.

Sure, real hot chocolate — made from scratch — has its place (here are three ultra-yummy, spiked ways to make it), but, Crowley argues, “a side effect of celebrating real hot chocolate … is that powdered hot cocoa can been seen as somehow unworthy. Lesser. And indeed it is everything that real hot chocolate is not: Industrial. Expedient. Thin.” Still, he says, those packets of Swiss Miss or Ovaltine or Nestle or whatever, deserve “respect and praise” and in some cases may “offer a better hot-chocolate experience than real hot chocolate.”

Crowley has a particular soft spot for Swiss Miss and those little marshmallows that comes in some of that brand’s varieties — part of hot cocoa’s inherent “jankiness.” He celebrates the way it’s impossible to get the mix to fully dissolve, which results in clumps of powder left at the bottom of your mug to scrape up and devour “the same way you did when you were six. Ideally … [while] … in your sweatpants, sitting on a sofa, watching some logs burn.”

Aw! At a time when trendy grown-up variations on the real hot chocolate theme are all the rage, how gratifying is it to see powdered hot cocoa mix, that easy-to-make, always-at-the-ready, kid-friendly staple, get its due.

Here’s an additional truth about powdered hot cocoa: It’s not only perfect on its own — it’s also a key ingredient in some deliciously decadent dessert recipes.

Hot chocolate mix can make brownies extra-special, add a cocoa kick to rich cheesecake, and contribute a cocoa swirl to a marble pound cake and more.

They’re all great treats to enjoy with, yes, a nice mug of perfect powdered cocoa. Happy winter!

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