Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Nov 5, 2009 10:08 AM

I want to do a "hot chocolate bar" that'll go all day on Thanksgiving...

...and if it's a hit, we'll replay it on Christmas.

Hello. I need some ideas here if you can help.

Thanksgiving will be at our daughters house this year. Many will be dropping in throughout the day. It'll be cool, with much cooking happening all day long. She has a really long bar in her house, that's perfect for setting up a hot chocolate or hot cocoa bar. People can help themselves but I need ideas on how to do it or set it up.

I remember seeing Jacques Torres on some tv show making his hot cocoa. He used some kind of custard powder, whatever that is, that made it really thick and rich looking as well as other spices both hot and sweet. I'm not sure how to do this or if it'd even work.

The family has always been into collecting coffee mugs so husband decided to make a mug tree from floor to about 6 feet tall. We'll hang our collectibles there. People are being asked to either bring their own mug or use one of ours [and/or] bring one ingredient for the perfect addition to a hot cocoa bar.

Any ideas? Plus, any clue about Mr. Torres' ingredient of custard powder? TIA

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. yum - what a great idea.

    Not sure about the custard powder. I immediately started thinking of "toppings". Some ideas: whipped cream, fluff, marshmallows , cinnamon, chili or cayenne (for those who like Mexican chocolate), vanilla, shaved dark/milk/white chocolate. So many choices!

    1. For holding hot chocolate for service, you'll need "air pots" (Thermos-equipped pitchers) to keep it hot. I'm not aware of any hot chocolate that one could keep in a crock pot or coffee pot type affair -- the burner will scorch it.

      Beside the ubiquitous whipped cream, I'd offer a variety of spiced sugars to go into the chocolate (you'll have to decide if you want to serve it unsweetened and allow guests the choice of sugar, seasoned sugar, or a sugar substitute, for that matter). I've seen mint candy canes served with cocoa (I'm not crazy about the chocolate/mint combination).

      Sadly, I can't give you any assistance with the custard powder you mention. To thicken hot chocolate, the thickener that comes to my mind is arrowroot powder. Use it sparingly. Bird's custard powder mix uses corn starch as a thickener. Perhaps you want to experiment with thickeners to get the consistency you want? I just now thought to suggest placing a vanilla bean in the milk you scald to make the chocolate.

      One thing that you *can* put in a crock pot, however, is mulled cider (just take apple cider and heat it up with cloves, cinnamon stick and allspice berries). I add a little brown sugar and some orange rind. The smell of the open pot of cider is just divine for the holidays.

      2 Replies
      1. re: shaogo

        I guess my mileage must vary ;-) because I've used a crockpot to keep hot chocolate warm for fall/winter parties with no problems. I did stir it from time to time (when I happened to walk by), but it didn't burn or scorch at all. That said, I think using an air pot or a coffeepot is much less messy than the ladle and crockpot.

        1. re: Niki in Dayton

          Yeah, I've done it in a crock pot as well. On low. Of course, i only needed to hold it for a couple of hours, maybe it would have eventually scorched.

          Might I suggest a low-fat version? I make hot cocoa (Valhrona powder is very chocolaty) w/ skim milk and it's delicious. This for people who want to drink in quantity. Then as a contrast , you could serve (hopefully smaller cups) of the super rich stuff made from melted chocolate and half and half.

          And I vote for homemeade marshmallows, or some purchased from City Bakery (NYC)

      2. You two are powerhouses. Thank you for helping me out. I would have never known not to use a few crock pots, so am so thankful.

        I am also not a fan of chocolate and mint together, but our darling little GD loves the flavor so will do some candy canes hanging from the mug tree or maybe put the little kids' mugs low down with only the canes there.
        love the kinds of ingredients mentioned. I have cinnamon sugar, peach sugar, cherry sugar, ginger sugar and vanilla sugar.
        I was hoping to do a couple of kinds of cocoa with milk, a lighter version in flavor and then a deeper darker version.
        this could end up being a tradition, I like that idea

        2 Replies
        1. re: iL Divo

          I really enjoy Mexican hot chocolate. It has a few spices in I think - cinnamon and a touch of cayenne? It's delicious.

          1. re: rtms

            I've tried it with cinnamon and cayenne. Last time I got too creative and added white pepper, too. It was awful. Had to toss the whole batch and start over.

            I ultimately prefer plain hot chocolate made with high quality cocoa powder and maybe a touch of creme de cacao.

        2. I'd start with three different kinds of hot chocolate - white, dark, and regular milk chocolate.

          For dry toppings: marshmallows, mini chocolate chips, white chocolate shavings, sprinkles, chocolate powder and cinnamon.

          Sauces/syrups: Caramel sauce, cinnamon syrup, and raspberry syrup.

          And of course - whipped cream.

          1. You can buy a coffee urn with a spout and set it on the bar. Some can hold a TON of hot cocoa. Its an elegant presentation and it's got a spout- no need to ladle out of a crockpot.

            Also, I would make chocolate and white chocolate dipped spoons. Perfect for stirring in add ins and very pretty.

            5 Replies
            1. re: cheesecake17

              I second the coffee urn idea; I have a two gallon one that I used for chocolate and it didn't burn or separate. Of course, if you want to do different flavors, you might want to consider insulated pots like restaurants use when they leave a coffee pot at your table. You can find them in restaurant supply houses or online. Or, if you have family & friends with these items, ask to borrow them. They don't have to match. I love the hot chocolate idea by the way.

              1. re: cheesecake17

                ok, this is to cheesecake and cherlyptw, what the Sam is a coffee urn? "splain" please :)

                1. re: iL Divo

                  This is a coffee urn:


                  there are various kinds, but this looks just like the one my parents had 30 years ago.

                    1. re: iL Divo

                      maybe you can borrow it from your church if they're not using it. if not, it's a good item to have anyway if you entertain often..

                      my inlaws have two- they use them for coffee, hot water, or hot cocoa.