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You don’t need a mix to make this quick, classic hot chocolate

It just takes four ingredients and 10 minutes to make hot chocolate.  (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
By Olga Massov Washington Post

I half-joke that my Russian upbringing made me part Husky. I get so giddy when I see fresh snow, I want to stop doing everything – sorry to my work colleagues – and just revel in the magic and serenity of a world blanketed in white. And I want to do it with a steaming cup of hot chocolate in hand.

My 9-year-old agrees that any good winter frolic should be followed by hot chocolate, ideally festooned with mini marshmallows. When he was younger, Avi preferred a mix. But this winter, when we rejoiced over two January snowfalls in one week, he decided that my simple homemade version is his platonic ideal.

The recipe takes mere minutes and uses just three ingredients, not including salt: milk, cocoa powder and semisweet chocolate. I don’t add any sugar, and at first you might think the cocoa isn’t sweet enough. As you continue sipping, the drink will taste sweeter, but will never get cloying.

Start by warming milk – whole, reduced-fat or plant-based, if you like – in a saucepan while stirring in the cocoa and chocolate. (You can use any dark, bittersweet or milk chocolate if you prefer, but I find semisweet produces that classic hot-cocoa taste.) Add a pinch of salt to bring out the flavors even more, and bring the mixture to the barest simmer.

In minutes, you’ll have a hot chocolate that’s in a different league from the packet mix and doesn’t take that much more effort to make.

If marshmallows aren’t your thing – shhh, don’t tell Avi – but a touch of spice is, add a pinch each of ground ancho chile and cayenne pepper for a throat-warming grown-up beverage.

And while a winter storm is the ideal excuse to treat yourself to hot chocolate, the only thing that’s nonnegotiable is how you drink it – holding the mug with both hands, inhaling the comforting aroma and savoring every sip. You might not even care whether it’s snowing.

Classic Hot Chocolate


2 cups whole or reduced-fat milk

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chips, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Pinch fine salt

Mini-marshmallows, for serving (optional)


In a small pot over medium heat, combine the milk, chocolate, cocoa powder and salt. Heat, whisking frequently, to melt the chocolate and disperse and dissolve the cocoa powder, until scalding – you should start seeing tiny bubbles gathering around the edges. Taste, and add a few more chocolate pieces, if desired, then stir to melt and combine.

Remove from the heat, whisk again briefly and divide between two cups. Serve hot.

Yield: 2 servings

Storage: Refrigerate for up to 2 days; gently reheat, stirring frequently, over low heat.

Variations: For a spicy hot chocolate, add 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper and a pinch of ancho chile powder.