As the holiday season arrives, November draws to a close, Mariah Carey tunes fill the air and Christmas jingles ring out. This time of year is steeped in traditions, from festive holidays to special activities with loved ones. However, my family never adopted these customs. Our Christmas decorations disappeared after they asked my 8 year old if I cared. Unlike my friends, our house didn’t have the usual Christmas decorations. Nonetheless, our holiday spirit remained strong, centered around family and quality time. Dad and I bonded over sports, making predictions for the NFL playoffs, while Mom and I enjoyed classic Christmas movies.
These days, my holiday season consists of baking treats while watching “Evil Santa” episodes of shows like “Futurama” with friends or family. One Thanksgiving tradition I always maintain is serving hot chocolate in the morning. A warm cup of creamy hot chocolate, enriched with vanilla and homemade whipped cream, is the perfect way to start the holiday.
This year, I was inspired by my mother’s memories of Germany. During her time there, she told me how much she loved dipping bread in a thick, creamy chocolate drink known as “drinking chocolate.” This might be considered fancy hot chocolate, but for some, it’s the ultimate way to enjoy the holiday season.
This season, I invite you to create your own drinking chocolates and biscotti, inspired by the tradition dear to my mother. Warm sips of drinking chocolate paired with delicious biscotti make for a warm and comforting combination, perfect to enjoy at Christmas parades or while decorating your Christmas tree. Try this delicious recipe and create your own magical holiday traditions.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
- 4 cups of whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 16 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, chopped (Note: Your chocolate must contain at least 70% cocoa, otherwise you run the risk of your hot chocolate breaking.)
- ¼ cup sugar (adjust to taste)
- 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Whipped cream, marshmallows or chocolate shavings, for garnish (optional)
- In a medium saucepan, combine milk and heavy cream over medium heat. Heat the mixture until it begins to simmer, but avoid boiling. Stir occasionally – you don’t want to burn the milk.
- While the milk and cream are heating, place the chopped dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Once the mixture is simmering, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.
- Let the hot milk and cream sit on top of the chocolate for 1 to 2 minutes to melt. Then whisk until the chocolate is smooth.
- Return the mixture to the pan and lower the heat before returning to the heat. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Stir often until the sugar is dissolved. Taste and adjust to your preferred sweetness by adding 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time.
- Once the desired softness is reached, bring to drinking temperature. Once reached, remove from heat and serve. Top with your favorites like whipped cream and marshmallows and pair them with a delicious biscotti (see below)!
Cherry and Almond Biscotti
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes
Servings: 28 to 36 pieces of biscotti
- 1½ cups (about 8 ounces) dried cherries
- ½ cup whiskey, plus more if necessary
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
- 2 teaspoons of yeast
- ½ teaspoon of coarse salt
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup of sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup whole blanched almonds, chopped
- 3 tablespoons sugar (if you have turbinado sugar, I recommend using it here)
- An ovenproof rack is required
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat the cherries and whiskey in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are softened, about 5 minutes. Prepare a cup to reserve the liquid. Drain into the cup, reserving 2 tbsp. If the liquid is less than 2 tablespoons, add enough whiskey to make 2 tablespoons.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until foamy, about 2 minutes. Add 3 whole eggs, one at a time. Stir in reserved cherry liquid and vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and gradually incorporate the flour mixture. Add the cherries and almonds.
- On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a 13-inch by 2½-inch log. Flatten the logs (which should be rectangles with rounded corners) to ½ inch thickness. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with 1 beaten egg; sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake for 35 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through cooking. Transfer to racks to cool, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
- Cut each log diagonally into 14 to 18 pieces. The pieces should be about ½ inch long. Make sure the logs are completely cool before cutting, otherwise they will collapse. (A sharp knife will help you with this task; try to get one that can cut the entire width of the biscotti.)