Preparing Perfect Hot Cocoa

'Tis the season for a steamy mug of cocoa, but what makes for a perfect hot chocolate?

First, there's the question of what kind of chocolate to use. mcf likes the high-fat cocoa powder from Penzeys SpicesThe Professor likes "Dutch process and natural cocoa in a 50/50 blend." But others insist on using solid chocolate. "Nothing Dutch-processed, no powders," says mateo21. "I don't care how much fat is in Penzeys, there isn't enough." And JReichert insists on "gourmet non-waxy chocolate."

The next thing to consider is the liquid. Chowhounds are vehement that milk is preferable to water, and many add extra-heavy cream. Even the lactose intolerant have their tricks: "As I must use Lactaid, I like the one with calcium added," says jmcarthur8. "It's richer than plain milk."

Finally, there are the add-ons. Marshmallows are fine and all, but jmcarthur8 loves hot chocolate with "a big spoonful of vanilla ice cream. Or frozen Cool Whip." tastesgoodwhatisit adds in "a bit of cinnamon, or vanilla, or rum." fluffythemonkey loves shredded coconut on top and Steve suggests adding "some salt and a bit of vanilla," which "makes a big difference." For The Professor, the key ingredient is a small dash of cayenne pepper at the end. "Seriously ... you have to try [it] ... it rocks!" The Professor says.

Discuss: What Makes a Good Hot Chocolate Good?

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