I was asked recently whether I knew any good cooking ‘hacks’.
“Err..well…um…use enough salt?” I proffered hopelessly, the cooking bit of my brain escaping out of my ears and slithering away from me, winking. I scrambled desperately for something else.
“And, um, let me see…don’t bother peeling carrots.”
Cooking Brain laughed and mooned me, before returning to its rightful position between my ears and telling me to make plum crumble. I never managed to give a straight answer to the question, and my uselessness plagued me for days.
But it got me thinking. What actually is a hack? Is it putting strange things in ice cube trays and thinking it somehow makes you cleverer than if you did it in a proper dish? No, I decided later on: I don’t know any hacks, and nor really do I need to. They all seem a bit naff to me.
However, upon the arrival of Autumn™ this week (I picked blackberries and saw two acorns shagging – it’s definitely Autumn) it occured to me I did, in fact, know a good kitchen hack. Autumn means it’s absolutely time to eat proper food again. It’s time for lightness and crunch to step aside. Cover me in animal fat, roll me cinnamon and call me Santa. With this very thought dancing around in my head, I realised that my very best kitchen hack is using a nutribullet style blender to make hot chocolate, which involves, for me at least, both dairy fat and cinnamon in reasonable quantities.
But why, Freeborn. Why use a blender when a teaspoon is so fun and tiny, like someone shrunk a big spoon? Surely you want to use the little spoon?
The use of the blender to make hot chocolate is life-changing. Firstly, it ensures homogeneity reigns true, like in boardrooms up and down the country. There are no lumps in blender hot chocolate, oh no. Secondly, the texture you get from the air being worked through the milk is second to none; a frothy top appears without the need for added foaming agents, and because the recipe involves *real chocolate* it’s probably the smoothest thing since a buttered frog sang Barry White while going down a slip n slide. Too much? Mm. Yes.
Alright, tell me what to do then.
You can use any milk you like in this recipe. I use that obnoxiously rich gold top jersey cream stuff because life is short and miserable and I might as well inject joy where I can. You can use the milk of any creature you like, including oats, soys, haggis and almonds.
The chocolate you use is also down to a matter of personal taste, but I find that 70% dark chocolate works perfectly in terms of sweetness – anything stronger and I feel like it loses its ‘hot chocolatelyness’ and becomes altogether too savoury. But I imagine playing on this with a tiny pinch of chilli flakes, a touch of seasalt, and maybe some bourbon, might just bring me back round to using 85% chocolate after all. You can go ahead and use cadbury dairy milk like a true patriot, but I think that’d be too sweet if you were going for oat milk or any pre-sweetened plant-based beverage. Up to you. Obvo.
What to actually do:
Grab your favourite mug. Give them a friendly kiss on the cheek and then tell them you’re going to make them the best hot chocolate they’ve ever tasted. Find another mug and fill it with milk. If they complain, you have misidentified the type of mug I’m talking about, which is very silly of you.
Put the mug in the microwave for 2 minutes, or until the milk is piping hot. Take two or three squares (around 30g) of chocolate and break them up further if you can. Drop them into the blender. If you’re using a nutribullet style sports one which normal people would defile with fruit and protein powder, then drop them into the bottom of flask bit and laugh at everyone else who uses this tool for smoothies rather than hot chocolate.
Tip in the very hot milk on top of the chocolate pieces and add a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg if you like. Sometimes I go mad and do a touch of vanilla extract or some orange zest. If you’re using a sporty blender, screw the lid on and invert it as soon as you pour the milk in. If you’re not, don’t worry. This step is just to stop the chocolate melting to the top of the blender and not coming back down the sides again to be homogenised, if you see what I mean.
Leave it sit for 30 seconds or so, to help melt the chocolate, then blend on full power for at least a minute. The milk will expand and create so much wonderful froth that you might actually struggle to fit it all back in the same mug. No worries though, because you can drink the remainder straight from the blender like a gym bro, but one who’s having much more fun.
I obviously serve this with gently folded extra thick double cream because I have no regard for my own health.
And that’s it.
Oh yes, one last thing. If you’ve recently made thai green curry paste in the same blender, do make sure to serve your hot chocolate with coconut rice and lots of fish sauce. You’re welcome.