Christmas Day has a special quality that is difficult to describe. For me, as a child, it began long before the day arrived. My excitement was wrapped up in anticipation of my family gathering in the morning and spending the entire day together. I admit the presents were a bonus, but what I’m talking about is the sacred, magical characteristics unique to Christmas.
I tried to capture the essence of what I mentioned above in my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles. The year is 1917 and Johnny is still a boy living on the farm with his family in Harford County, Maryland. The morning is almost ruined by an unwelcome visitor before Johnny’s stepmother, Collie, comes to the rescue.
Collie surprises the family with slices of pound cake and hot cocoa in addition to their usual fare. The food in this scene came from a memory I have of my mother waking my brother and me with slices of pound cake and hot cocoa one summer morning. I thought the rich cake and hot beverage would translate well to winter dining.
Sometimes the terms hot chocolate and hot cocoa are used interchangeably and incorrectly. Hot chocolate is milk and cream based with vanilla and shavings of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. In some recipes, the quantity of chocolate used can make the drink so thick one has to spoon it out of the cup. Hot cocoa, on the other hand, is made with water, a little cream, sugar, and cocoa powder. This version is thinner with a more concentrated chocolate flavor.
For my novel, I chose to include the recipe my mother makes. It’s somewhere between the above-mentioned methods. My best memories of hot cocoa are made with the following recipe. Enjoy!
One 8 – 10 oz. mug per person
Sugar (I use raw sugar)
Use one mug to measure out the quantity of milk needed, enough for each person, into a saucepan. Add 1 t. vanilla per person to the milk and warm on the stove. While the milk/vanilla is heating, measure 2 t. Hershey’s cocoa into each cup and 2 – 3 t sugar (depending on how sweet you like it.) When the milk/vanilla mixture is steaming, ladle it into each cup. Stir until sugar and cocoa are thoroughly mixed in. Garnish as desired.