It was a weeknight in 11th grade, one of the first cold nights of fall. I was spending my time just like every other kid in high school in the early 2000’s did: chatting online with my friends. (Nowadays, I guess they’d just text? I still chat tethered to my computer, but something about it feels totally antiquated.)
So: I was talking with my best friend Richard when I was struck with a craving for hot chocolate. “BRB, going to make some hot choc,” I typed, cutting off whatever hilarious conversation we were in the middle of.
I don’t remember if we were out of the little packets of Swiss Miss (with the crunchy dried marshmallows, I loved those) or if I was just feeling adventurous. But I ended up pulling out a canister of Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa to make my toasty chocolate drink from scratch.
Somewhere along the way, things went wrong. I think what happened was the Hershey’s instructions on the side of the canister were for like, four servings of hot chocolate. I started out with just a cup of milk, knowing I wanted to make the recipe for just one. But me being me, forgot to keep cutting down the rest of the ingredients, and ended up putting something like a half cup of cocoa powder in my eight ounces of milk. At the time, the only cooking I knew how to do was toast an English muffin, so I didn’t even flinch at the ridiculous ratio.
When the hot chocolate was finally ready, I wrapped my hands around the mug, smiled, and took a sip. And immediately started choking on the insane amount of dry, bitter powder that hadn’t been absorbed into the milk. I might’ve collapsed on the floor or dropped the mug or both out of sheer disgust.
I wasn’t a total teenage fool, so it only took me a few minutes to realize what I’d done wrong, and I ran back to the computer to tell Richard what I did. I don’t remember his response, but the experience left enough of an impression on me that I still remember it almost ten years later.
Made with a creamy almond butter base, this delicious version of hot chocolate has almost nothing in common with the original—save for the fact that I still used Hershey’s cocoa powder. But it won’t make you choke or collapse, I promise. I originally developed the recipe as part of a healthy brunch story for Culinate, but wanted to share it this week for the upcoming chocolate holiday (err, Valentine's Day).
Almond Butter Hot Chocolate
It might seem a little strange to put all the ingredients in the blender before warming them up, but I’ve found it prevents those dry chocolate lumps that form when you add cocoa powder directly to hot liquid.
1 3/4 cups water
2 1/2 tablespoons almond butter, chunky or smooth
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brewed coffee (optional, but makes the cocoa taste extra chocolate-y)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a blender, add the water and almond butter and blend until smooth. Add the cocoa powder, sugar, coffee, and salt and blend again.
If you prefer a super-smooth hot cocoa, run the mixture through a strainer. I really like the slight graininess and even the small pieces of almond from the chunky almond butter, so I don't bother.
Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Once simmering, turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into mugs and drink hot.