Recently at a Christmas gift bazaar, I stumbled across the most amazing treat: hot cocoa on a stick! The lady who’d made them said they’re one of her best sellers, because most people think it’s too much trouble to make them even though she thinks they’re quite easy.
Well, I’m not most people: I badgered her until she told me where she got the recipe, then raced to the grocery store. Thanks to the wonders of my smartphone, I was able to pick up everything I needed to make Hot Cocoa on a Stick that very day… along with the homemade marshmallow recipe my family loves.
Honestly, these are a walk in the park if you’ve made candy before. If you haven’t, well, get yourself a good candy thermometer and prepare to WOW your friends. Unlike many of my recipes, I’m providing step-by-step photos so you can see how it’s done.
How To Make Hot Cocoa On A Stick
The lady at the Christmas Bazaar pointed me to King Arthur Flour’s recipe for Cocoa Blocks, so that’s what I used. It makes for a dark, dense confection that could almost pass for fudge. In fact, I had to assure my husband and son several times it was NOT fudge… and then make them fudge because they were so disappointed. The KA recipe makes enough for 3 dozen Hot Cocoa on a Stick servings.
Add your cream and sweetened condensed milk to a medium sauce pan. Don’t skimp on this: we want heavy cream and full-fat condensed milk. Combine the two and gently heat it over medium heat, stirring frequently until it begins slightly steaming.
The candy thermometer actually isn’t necessary for this recipe. I have no idea why I stuck it in there. Come to think of it, I think it belongs with the marshmallow recipe, but the cute little Christmas ornament with the number on it doesn’t match the others there… and that would drive me nuts. So, anyway, all you need to do is slowly heat the cream and condensed milk until it’s starting to steam.
Meanwhile, combine your chocolate chips and chunks of unsweetened baking chocolate in a bowl. Very important although I don’t show it, now is a good time to butter a piece of aluminum foil and line an 8×8 inch pan.
Once the milk mixture has started to steam, remove it from the heat and dump in the chocolate. Let it sit for a few minutes while you do something else (like coax your kid out of having a meltdown over his science project), then whisk the chocolate into the milk.
Keep whisking until it looks so ooey and gooey that you’re tempted to stick your finger into the hot mess to taste it. Resist that temptation. It hurts. (Guess how I know that?)
Spread the chocolate in the foil-lined prepared pan using a buttered spatula, and set it aside overnight.
Once the chocolate is set, it will have a fudge-like consistency. It will also have a dark chocolate fudge taste (go on, ask how I know). Using a buttered knife or pizza cutter, slice the fudge into 1×1-inch squares. Transfer them to a plastic bag and sprinkle on a little cocoa powder. Close the bag and gently turn it repeatedly to coat every edge of the cocoa chunks.
At this point, you can put them on a stick or put them in a pretty container and use them to make cocoa: just add 1 square to 1 cup of hot milk (water won’t work). Stir until the cocoa square is fully dissolved and enjoy.
Or…go one step further like I did, and make Homemade Marshmallows. If you’ve never tried the homemade kind, you MUST! They’re infinitely fluffier, more tender, and more delicious than the store bought stuff, plus you can flavor them if you like! (I give variations in the recipe, below.)
How To Make Homemade Marshmallows Recipe
Last year was my first-ever attempt at making homemade marshmallows, so I followed a highly-rated recipe over at Food.com. It was good, but I felt there were some instructions lacking, and this year I wanted to make different flavors of marshmallows. Although I didn’t take photos of my other batches, I’m including the variations in the recipe below.
Pour 1/2 cup of the water into the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle it with three (3) packets of unflavored gelatine. Let that sit 5-10 minutes to soften.
Meanwhile, butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar (also known as powdered sugar or icing sugar) and 1/4 cup cornstarch. Sprinkle half of this over the bottom and sides of the buttered dish, tapping and tilting the dish so it spreads everywhere.
Now, in a small sauce pan, combine the rest of the water, sugar, corn syrup and salt over medium heat. (Add the scraped vanilla beans if you’re using them.) Unfortunately, I’m missing a photo here… or maybe it’s photo 2 from the recipe above? At any rate, don’t let the tip of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan. Don’t bother stirring: just watch and wait as the mixture slowly reaches 240° F. As soon as it does, take the pan off heat.
This part gets a little tricky: you want to turn the stand mixer onto low and drizzle the sugar syrup mixture into the gelatine by slowly pouring it down the side of the bowl. Do NOT add it all at once or you’ll make a horrible, icky mess and most likely burn yourself, too. Or so I’ve heard.
Once you’ve got the syrup mixture blended in, then increase the mixer speed to High and let it go for around 15 minutes. Yes, that sounds like a long time, but this step is both cooling and fluffing the mixture for you, turning it from syrup into the cloud-like spongy goodness. In the very final moment, add vanilla or peppermint extract and food coloring, if you’re using it.
What you’ve got now looks like marshmallow fluff — which, by the way, is exactly what it is at this point… so feel free to put that stuff in a jar and hoard it for yourself if you want! Or, spread it in your prepared pan using a buttered spatula.
Let the mixture sit for several minutes, then sprinkle more of the cornstarch-confectioner sugar mixture over the top. (Reserve the rest.) Leave the marshmallows to sit uncovered overnight before loosening the edges of the goop and turning it onto a cutting board. Cut into 1×1-inch squares with scissors or a sharp pizza cutter, or dip metal cookie cutters into the reserved cornstarch-confectioner’s sugar mixture and cut out pretty pieces. (Me? I was tired. I went for cubes.) This will make roughly 8 dozen marshmallows.
To assemble the Hot Cocoa on a Stick, stack one or two marshmallows on top of a cocoa block and push a cake pop stick through them. Put them in cello bags or in a pretty treat box. Cocoa blocks will stay good on the counter 2-3 days, and in the fridge up to 2 weeks. Homemade marshmallows stay fresh in an air-tight container almost indefinitely!
- 1 cup cold water, divided
- 3 packets unflavored gelatine (2½ tbsp.)
- 1½ cups granulated white sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- ¼ tsp. sea salt
- 2 tsp. vanilla OR peppermint extract
- 1 vanilla bean, split vertically (optional)
- Natural red food coloring (if using peppermint flavoring)
- ¼ cup confectioner's sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- Pour ½ cup of cold water in the bowl of your stand mixture. Sprinkle the gelatine over it and allow it to soften.
- Combine cornstarch and confectioner's sugar in a small bowl.
- Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the inside with ½ of the cornstarch-sugar mixture. Tilt the pan and tap to distribute the powder all around the inside of the dish.
- In a small sauce pan over medium heat combine the remaining ½ cup water, corn syrup and salt. (Add contents of the scraped vanilla beans if you're using them.) Insert a candy thermometer but do not allow the tip to touch the bottom of the pan.
- Heat the corn syrup mixture to 240° F, then immediately remove it from the heat.
- Start the stand mixture on low and drizzle the syrup mixture down the inside of the bowl slowly. Once the syrup is completely added, turn the mixer speed to high and allow it to whip the marshmallow fluff for 15 minutes.
- During the final minute of mixing, add the vanilla or peppermint extract and food coloring (if you're using it).
- Spread the marshmallow fluff in the prepared baking dish using a buttered spatula. Allow it to sit for a few minutes, then sprinkle on half of the remaining cornstarch-sugar mixture.
- Leave the marshmallows to set overnight, uncovered.
- Loosen the marshmallows from the side of the pan using a knife, then turn it onto a cutting board. Cut using scissors or a sharp pizza wheel, or use metal cookie cutters dipped in the remaining cornstarch mixture.
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