Welcome to Cocoa & Heart blog!

 RSS Feed

  1. Hot Chocolate Spoon - Cocoa & Heart

    Hot chocolate is just the perfect warm and satisfying drink to enjoy over those long winter months.

    It can also be enjoyed practically any time – whether for breakfast, as a mid-morning or lunchtime drink – or later in the day, for tea or just before you go to bed.

    And the basic recipe can be spiced up by adding a hint of nutmeg, ground pepper or cinnamon.

    One great way to make Hot Chocolate that little big extra special is by making it with Nutella or any other hazelnut spread.

    Ah Nutella! If you’ve never come across this gift of chocolate goodness, then indulge me (literally) with a few words by way of explanation. For many chocoholics, Nutella is the best thing since sliced bread. Actually, Nutella is great on sliced bread but that’s another recipe!

    Made by the Italian company, Ferrero, and first sold in the mid 1960’s, Nutella’s main ingredients are sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa solids and skimmed milk. For many fans, it is chocolate spread heaven and chocolate not so much spread and thickly added to just about anything. You could say that a little chocolate goes a long way, as the actual chocolate content is not that high, but the flavour has been satisfying global taste buds for generations now.

    But back to how to make hot chocolate with Nutella. As it’s simply delicious let’s go with a simple recipe for now.

    Nutella Hot Chocolate Recipe

    A version with cocoa powder

    Ingredients

    4 cups low fat/skim milk (or any plant based milk - almond or coconut milk goes well with chocolate)

    2 tablespoons Nutella

    2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

    2 tablespoons sugar

    Fancy Toppings:

    Marshmallows

    Crushed hazelnuts

    Cinnamon

    Chocolate chips

    Extra Nutella!

     

    Method

    Heat milk in a regular saucepan on medium-high heat until beginning to warm and steam. You can also warm up your milk in a microwave. Add the Nutella spread, cocoa powder and sugar, and whisk until the mix is fully dissolved and all comes together

    Then, just bring to a gentle simmer while stirring, and take off heat.

    Once nice and creamy, pour into a mug, maybe add mini marshmallows and some of your favourite spices and sit back and simply enjoy.

    There. Couldn’t be simpler could it?

    Serves 4 with around 160 calories.

    If you are a complete Nutella fan, and want to dispense with the cocoa powder entirely, and are satisfied by the cocoa solids in the Nutella alone, then try this variation.

    Nutella Hot Chocolate Recipe for One

    A version without cocoa powder

    1 cup of whole milk (or milk of your choice)

    3 tablespoons of Nutella (or to taste)

    Method

    Mix together the milk and Nutella with a whisk in a saucepan over medium heat. The trick is to keep on mixing until the liquid is frothy and the Nutella has melted. If you are careful you can also use a microwave to make this drink. I usually heat up the milk first and then stir the hazelnut spread in until dissolved. If the drink cools down too much, just re-heat it in a microwave again. If you find your hot chocolate little bit too bland and sweet, try adding a tiny pinch of salt in (literary just a few grains). It makes all the difference, as it brings all he flavours together.

    So, what are you waiting for? Why not start right now by making your next hot chocolate a Nutella one!

    I'm off to heat up some milk...so until next time!

    Nicknm author

  2. Charles Bridge - Prague at night

    - THE CHOCOLATE EDIT -

    So, we’re halfway through January 2019 and it’s time for the first blog of the year. Perhaps I should start with just finishing off last year and the last party we did on December 21. It was eventful since we very nearly didn’t make it at all – not only that but we were on the point of emailing our apologies – from the airport of another country.

    We were booked to hold a rolling series of children’s chocolate lollipop classes by Lloyds Bank at their Chatham HQ. It was part of bring your children to work event and other entertainment was also laid on to create a festive party atmosphere.

    The previous day we were also booked – to arrive on a scheduled flight back to Gatwick from Prague where we’d been visiting Magdalena’s relatives for a few days. But the only the only thing flying around Gatwick that day were drones! Was it the same drone spotted by lots of people or different drones seen by the same people? Looking back on it now it all seems a bit of a mystery. In fact, it would be simpler to just put the sightings down to a passing UFO.

    So we sat at Prague airport, patiently or otherwise, googling breaking news for information since none was forthcoming from the flight departure desk. We’d been scheduled to arrive at Gatwick at @3pm and the party was the following morning at 10.00am. That leaves plenty of time for any delays or so we thought. We’d even done some prep before we left to save time. No problem just have another coffee, sit tight and wait for the all clear. Only nothing was clear about the situation at Gatwick. It couldn’t have been less clear had a huge fog descended on the runway.

    With no flights coming in or out of Gatwick on police advice, we emailed our contact at Lloyds bank and explained the situation. When was the latest we could arrive, we asked? We might be late – we might not get there at all! Suddenly, the departure board was announcing Gatwick flights diverted to Stansted. People who hadn’t moved for hours; stumbled into action and scrambled to get into the queue for the new gate number. They needn’t have bothered. Nothing happened for a while. Eventually we all boarded and the Italian crew promptly asked for a Czech volunteer to explain the situation to Czech only speakers as they’d been diverted to service the flight themselves. Great! So we phoned Lloyds to say – all on again. See you tomorrow.

    We were promised that Easy Jet were aware of the situation and a rep would meet us on landing to advise on coaches going back to Gatwick where we, and most other passengers, had cars booked in the car park. We landed at Stanstead, about 5 hours late. No rep, so we made our way to the Easy Jet booking office only to be told that a coach would not arrive for another 2.5 hours! When the private coach did arrive, the driver refused to leave until the coach was full – as it was the only one booked and said she was instructed to wait for more incoming flights and passengers. Meanwhile, at the airport, passengers wandered around not knowing any transport had been laid on.

    People came and went from the coach – some making their own arrangements. Exorbitant taxi fares to Gatwick were quoted. Having waited 2.5 hours for the coach – it took another 2.5 hours for another coach alongside to finally leave. The driver returning home via Gatwick at the end of his 14 hour shift. All in all, we spent longer at Stansted waiting to get back to Gatwick than we did in Prague waiting to leave for Gatwick. We finally got home, shattered, after 3am – about 13 hours later than planned. Of course, having optimistically, emailed Lloyds to say, panic over, we were now landing via Stansted; we could then hardly cancel just because it took another six hours to get home, via Gatwick.

    So we slept for a few hours, got up early and finished the prep. Fortunately, Lloyds had kindly put back our starting time by an hour or so. The show must go on; it was Christmas time and if Santa Claus could make it all the way from Lapland – so could we from Prague, where it had been snowing as we arrived at the airport.

    The excited faces of the children (and some of the adults, too!) took away most of the tiredness. Milk and white chocolate lollipops were made and elaborately decorated. The parents went away happy (and most of the children!). And the funny thing? Trying not to watch Sky News on the big screen tv next to me, which was still leading on the drones at Gatwick and the shut down on the airport.

    So, until the next chocolate adventure...

    Nick

    nm author

     

  3. dreamstime_l_96019182

    When do you drink Hot Chocolate? As a warm, comforting cup on a cold winter’s evening or as an afternoon treat with marshmallows on top, with friends after shopping perhaps? Whenever you drink hot chocolate and for whatever reason, I sure you feel better just from enjoying the rich, hot taste and savouring the relaxing feeling it often brings.

    But do you ever think about who discovered hot chocolate? Or how the drink in your hands and taste in your mouth has changed a lot since it was first discovered?

    It was always thought hot chocolate was first discovered and drank by the Mayan peoples of what is now Central America over 500BC. But recent research in the last year or so now puts the discovery of hot chocolate making back to at least 2,500BC and the Olmecs civilisation in Mexico.

    What we now regard as a hot, smooth and sweet beverage, would then have been much more of a cold, spicy and rougher tasting concoction.

    But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Chocolate itself comes from the seeds or beans inside the pods of the cocoa plant. The beans themselves were often dried and so highly prized that they were stored and used as a form of currency.

    Archaeological research indicates that the seeds were ground up with water, corn meal and other plant-based products such as maize. The mixture was then poured back and forth until the ingredients formed a foaming, thickened brew. This was then drunk cold. Chili peppers were often added, to give the drink, a spicy, bitter after taste.

    So who actually drank chocolate? It appears that this spicy, cold drink was readily drank by all classes of Mayan society. Poorer people would have drunk it from rough earthenware bowls. But richer people enjoyed chocolate poured from elaborately decorated drinking vessels. These were probably status symbols – so much so that they drank from them in life and were buried with them in death. Treasured possessions, indeed.

    These days tea drinkers pour over the respective merits of how long to let the leaves brew for. Mayans would have poured the cocoa drink and its many grains, back and forth endlessly, without a second thought; while discussing the harvest or the weather.

    Evidence indicates that the Mayans were clean shaven, so they probably wouldn’t have literally wet their whiskers over a foaming brew; but it’s seems clear that drinking chocolate had a firm and important social place in Mayan society.

    The invasion of the Americas, by Spanish conquistadores, like Herman Cortes, led to cocoa beans being brought back to mainland Spain. As, the Hapsburg imperial courts of Emperors like Charles V, began to drink chocolate, it started to be served hot and sweetened.  Hot chocolate as we know it today was well on the way to being served for the refined and so refined in both its ingredients and its taste. Rich pickings, indeed.

    In Northern Europe and an island sometimes called Britain, the first coffee or chocolate houses started to appear around 1690s. By this time, Britain had overseas possessions of its own in the Caribbean, such as Jamaica, which was seized from the Spanish during Cromwell’s reign in the 1650’s. But hot chocolate was still an expensive drink, for the rich and elite who consumed it ostentatiously in public with rituals every bit as elaborate as a Mayan nobleman.  Georgian society had discovered hot chocolate not just to gossip with – but to gossip over.

    The addition of milk to the cocoa mass that made up chocolate gave the drink an altogether different, lighter and more refreshing flavour. This led to hot chocolate being an addition to the menu as an after-dinner drink.

    In the middle of the 18th century the Dutch discovered how to make cocoa powder. This enabled chocolate to be blended much easier with water and milk. But it wasn’t until nearly a century later that Joseph Fry manufactured what is now considered to be the first chocolate bar by melting cocao butter back into Dutch cocoa to form a chocolate paste which could be moulded into a bar shape.

    It wasn’t long before more chocolate was eaten in a solid bar than drunk from a cup or mug.

    Fast forward another century and a half and hot chocolate is approaching a new height of regaining popularity. Today it’s enjoyed in a range of different ways and flavours. Variously know as drinking chocolate or cocoa chocolate, hot chcolate can be made from shaved chocolate shards, melted cocoa or cocoa powder. It’s often made either hot milk or water. Often the milk when heated is frothy – a nod to its Mayan roots.

    Viennese chocolate houses were among the first to start the tradition of using whipped cream as topping and all sorts of colourful sweets from candy to marshmallows now adorn the top of a cup or tall glass of hot chocolate.

    Where hot chocolate is made from chocolate itself, rather than powder, it’s often much thicker in texture and richer in taste. So, the Spanish drink chocolate a la taza or chocolate con churros – with fried cyrated conical shaped dough topped with sugar. The thickness of the rich and intense chocolate, allows the churros to be dipped into it and stay on the dough.

    Around Christmas time, gingerbread flavoured hot chocolate is especially popular; vanilla is always a favourite and cinnamon is often added for an extra warming effect. Fashions come full circle, so they say, so the trend for chilli to be added to dark chocolate to give it that extra kick, may well take off with hot chocolate. Another nod to our Mayan drinking forebears.

    Over the years, various medicinal properties have been ascribed to drinking hot chocolate. It’s been advertised as a way of combating tiredness to alleviating stomach and liver problems. More modern medical research has pointed to the benefits of antioxidants in reducing heart disease. These are found in higher quantities in chocolate (especially dark chocolate) than in red wine or green tea. Similarly, the flavonoids in chocolate, help to keep our arteries healthy.

    So, wherever you are, whatever the occasion and however you prefer to drink it, raise a glass (or a cup or a mug) to the rich and lovely taste of the humble hot chocolate. Delve deeper into the history of hot chocolate and you’ll find it’s full of rich discoveries – whoever actually discovered hot chocolate in the first place.

    So, what’s hot chocolate’s recipe for success? Do you have a favourite hot chocolate drink or flavouring? What’s the essence of good hot chocolate? Here’s one recipe that you might like:

    What ingredients do I need?

    590ml full milk

    475ml gold top milk or single cream

    113g plain chocolate, chopped

    113g milk chocolate, chopped

    1 tbsp sugar

    1 tsp pure vanilla essece

    1 tsp instant espresso or coffee powder

    4 to 5 vanilla beans or cinnamon sticks, for garnish

    How do I make the hot chocolate?

    First, heat the milk and gold top or single cream in a saucepan on medium heat to just below the simmering point.

    Then, remove the pan from the heat and add both chocolates, stirring to dissolve.

    Next, when the chocolates are melted, add the sugar, vanilla extract and espresso and whisk vigorously.

    Finally, reheat gently and serve immediately. Use a vanilla bean or cinnamon stick to garnish each serving.

    This recipe makes about 4 very generous mugs, so if you are after smaller quantities, just half all the ingredients. And if you want to make your life a little easier, head over to our online shop and have a look at our hot chocolate spoons or festive hot chocolate cones to make your hot chocolate drink making a little easier!

    I'm off to make my own hot chocolate - until next time!

    Nick

  4. golden-69463_1280

    Giving Chocolate Coins for Christmas is a seasonal festive tradition. But what exactly is its origins and what form has it taken over the ages? As a child, I can remember receiving wrapped up shiny and glistening coins in my Christmas stocking. The temptation was always to bite them before unwrapping them. Big mistake!

    Unwrapping the giant coins was always harder than it seemed as well. Maybe, my eager hands were all festive fingers and thumbs. Or perhaps, I tried to heed my Mum’s instructions to look after the wrapper. I doubt Mum’s entreaties to keep the nice shiny paper, had much effort on my as I picked away furiously at the silver foil paper to get to the milk chocolate inside. Either way, the coin itself was probably a sticky mess long before I actually got round to eating it.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. Just how did chocolate coins get to be given as presents at Christmas? It’s all probably wrapped up in the legend of St Nicholas himself which may date back to Turkey or Greece in the 5th century. St Nicholas is often portrayed as a Bishop who was especially kind to children. Being a shy figure, he would go around parishioners houses at Christmas and drop coins down the chimney or through windows and into the stockings of the little children inside. Either that or he didn’t want people to know where the largesse came from. And so, began the tradition of giving gifts and presents at Christmas.

    santa-claus-2984222_1920

    St Nicholas’s day is actually on 6 December so many parts of the world, celebrate it by giving little gifts, like chocolate coins in Christmas Stockings before the 25th December. In the Netherlands, St Nicholas is known as Sinterklaas and visits little children on the evening of 5th December. Other traditional gifts that you can find in your stocking include an orange and a lump of coal!

    What is the significance of chocolate coins for hanukkah?

    The Jewish festival of Hanukkah – a festival of light held in December, also features the giving of coins to children. Known as Hanukka gelt or geld (German/Dutch word for gold) it appears to have started as a tradition between school children and their teachers.

    When were chocolate coins invented ?

    That's tricky to say, but in the 1920’s US chocolate makers introduced chocolate wrapped in the shape of silver foil money pouch bags for Jewish immigrants to hand out in their communities at Christmas time.

    A little bit earlier, in late Victorian Britain, farthing coins were used be wrap chocolate inside. Christmas trees were also traditionally decorated with chocolate coins although not placed too close to the fire, I hope. Coins would be either gold or silver in colour with milk chocolate being the usual filling inside.

    How many calories are in a chocolate coin?

    Ever wondered about this? If you are very health conscious, you might like to know. First of all the amount of calories, depends on the coin size. A bag of 400g milk chocolate probably has around 500 calories- so maybe that weighs in at  40 calories per coin. So, not a lot of calories in one chocolate coin, as long as you don't eat the whole bag in one setting!

    In 2014, Cadbury’s shocked the chocolate world by announcing that it was stopping selling chocolate coins. Amongst the reasons given were that it was ‘fiddly’ wrapping the foil around the coin. ‘Fiddly’! I kid you not. That came in quotes from an official spokesman. Fiddly for me, trying as a kid to wrap them. But aren’t there machines for wrapping them all up? Or were Santa’s elves too wrapped up in Argos’ packing bay to help any more? Foiled again.

    Another more plausible reason Cadburys gave was that without their purple but not trademarked wrapping, the coins were not so indistinguishable from the chocolate coins of other manufactures. Hang that on your Christmas tree and eat it.

    Most supermarkets will sell their own Christmas coins – large or small – individually or in a bag. The foil imprint may even be a Christmas theme since it’s possible nowadays to print most images onto the wrapping. Look out for chocolate foxes, owls, unicorns and even llamas!

    Indistinguishable or not, the history of giving chocolate coins at Christmas starts with St Nicholas and is now an important part of the festive season. After all, the ancient Mayans used cocao beans as a form of currency. So, if flattery is the sincerest form of imitation, then perhaps we’ve come full circle; because for some people, chocolate, like money, truly makes the world go round!

    So, there you go a potted history of chocolate coins!

    Until next time...

    Nick

  5. Hot chocolate drink

    - THE CHOCOLATE EDIT -

    As the orange glow from pumpkins starts to fade and the crackle from fireworks fizzles into the autumnal night, we’re left with the long run up to Christmas. For some, particularly the young, it’s a magical time of amazement and excitement. For others, especially parents, the old tricks have all been seen before and it’ll take more than a sleight of Santa’s hand to convince us that there’s anything new to look forward to this year.

    Therein lies the perennial Christmas conundrum. So much of our memories hark back to a Victorian imagined past. One of stockings being hung by the fire, chestnuts roasting beneath while it’s snowing outside. Most of us don’t have fires, don’t eat chestnuts and how much money have the bookies made taking bets every year on a White Christmas?

  6. Chocolate Truffle Hearts

    - THE CHOCOLATE EDIT -

    We get booked to give demonstration to a wide range of clubs and associations. And it’s always nice to be invited back. Last year we travelled to Colchester to give a chocolate truffle demonstration to – a Koi Carp club. Of course, to enter into the spirt of things, Magdalena prepared some special fish chocolate moulds, coloured to resemble a carp. The fish moulds – and the demo went down well, as did the other samples and we enjoyed meeting the members. We all talked a lot about chocolate, particularly during the specialist taste testings of premium dark and milk chocolate from around the world.