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Hot cocoa DRY mix recipe - best practices

I'm attempting to make 150-175 small jars (probably 6oz) of hot cocoa dry mix as favors to give away to my wedding guests. After doing some research (both on Chowhound and the amazing world wide web), I have a plan of attack but wanted to get your thoughts on a few questions:

1. DISSOLVING: I plan to create maybe 4 different types of hot cocoa mix, with variations that involve different spices (e.g., cayenne, chili powder). However, I've heard various views on whether spices actually dissolve with the addition of hot water/milk. I don't want people to be drinking a sludge of spicy goo on the bottom of their drinks! Any thoughts on whether certain brands or preparations of spices dissolve better than others?

2. VARIATIONS: I plan to use Alton Brown's recipe as my basic recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...). First, does anyone have a better DRY mix recipe they recommend? 2nd, the variations I'm thinking of are below - any thoughts?
** Aztec: chili, cayenne (see concern #1
)** Salted caramel: sea salt, caramel that I let harden before crushing into pieces (will this dissolve OK??)
** Normal: milk chocolate with marshmallows (where to buy mini marshmallows?)
** Other possibilities: Chinese five spice (see concern #1), mint (would use crushed Andes mint chocolates), peanut butter (does Reese's melt?), mocha (use instant coffee - any recs on brands?), Mexican (vanilla, cinnamon - see concern #1 again)

3. TECHNICAL: Do I need more than one 3-kg bag of Valrhona cocoa powder? Online searches show density of cocoa powder to be anywhere from 0.364 g/cm^3 (converts to 278 fl oz) to 0.641g/cm^3 (158 fl oz). If I assume 158 fl oz, I won't have enough, but assuming 278 fl oz I'll have more than enough. Note: I may increase the cocoa content in Alton's recipe as it seems too little to me vs. the other ingredients.

4. Any other thoughts or advice or recipes or product recommendations are greatly appreciated! I'd love to experiment to answer my own questions, but at this point I'm running out of time.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. According to the intrawebs, an 8 oz container of Hershey's cocoa contains approximately 45 tablespoons of cocoa, or nearly 3 cups. That sounds about right to me (my 1 lb containers of cocoa powder would hold around 6 cups of liquid) - so by that measurement, your 3 kilo bag would contain somewhere in the neighborhood of 64 cups of cocoa. The AB recipe makes 5.5 cups, so if you figure you need 150 cups of mix, you'll only need to make 27-28x the recipe amount. Even if you go with way more cocoa than the recipe calls for, I think a 3kg bag of cocoa powder is goign to be just fine.

    1 Reply
    1. re: biondanonima

      I like your math - 1 bag it is! Thanks. Now I guess I'll start putting a list together of all the lovely things I can do with the leftovers!

    2. Jen,
      As I've never done this, I can't comment on the technical aspects. Re. variety--Even if you quality test every single, I would stick to one or two (at the most) varieties...why mess with a classic?

      If you are putting a tag on as a little favor commemoration, I'd put directions (Re. Dissolving) that if possible, guests should mix with hot milk, not hot water. Makes a big difference in taste and in mixing.

      1. I find that cinnamon glops up into a slimmy mess at the bottom of cup. The Andes mint will melt, fun idea!! What about those cherry flavored chips. You could chop those up, better yet, Andes brand makes like 4 seasonal flavors. The mint, cherry, and I can't remember what eles, lol:). Maybe make a vanilla sugar, and try a white hot cocoa. As for mini marshmallows, just get the small ones, and cut them in half or leave whole. Also, try the hot cocoa mix on the hersheys tub, and write the liquid directions and cooking instructions on your favor tag.

        1. Oh ya, also, I really like Tasters Choice instant coffee, and maybe you could dip plastic spoons into caramel, then that shell type ice cream sauce to " seal" the caramel onto the spoons.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mariars

            Shell type ice cream sauce only hardens over something cold.

          2. The only thing I would add is that you need to be sure to try a sample before packaging all of them. Have you tried Alton's recipe or did the cocoa content seem too little based on reading the recipe?

            1 Reply
            1. re: stecworld

              I haven't tried Alton's recipe... it just seemed too little when compared to the other ingredients. I do plan to try at least a sample or two from each batch, although even that makes me nervous. If I'm throwing a teaspoon of cayenne pepper into 45 cups of cocoa mix, how do I ensure that's mixed evenly? Maybe it's my previous life as a chemical engineer that has me over concerned.

            2. 1. Dissolving - I think the trick here is to make a slurry with part of the water/milk. Once the slurry is made add the rest of the liquird.

              2. Variations - I'm a traditionalist and don't care for too many funky ingredients. For me the most exotic hot chocolate I've had was Mexican hot chocolate - cinnamon and chile powder.

              3. Technical - When I did a lot of baking, 1 cup of cocoa powder was about 100 grams which works out to 12.5 grams per ounce. Using Alton's recipe where cocoa powder is 1/5th of the total volume, you should be good with 3 kg. I come up with 2.6 kg [12.5 g/oz x 6 oz x 175 jars x (1/ 5) x (1 kg/1000 g)].

              4. Instead of creating from scratch, how about doctoring up a high quality hot cocoa mix?

              7 Replies
              1. re: dave_c

                Hmm, I hadn't really thought of doctoring up a high quality hot cocoa mix b/c I just assumed it would be too expensive. But you know what they say about "assuming"...

                I actually like being able to say it's homemade. Think it's a tad more special, even if it leaves a lot more room for disaster!

                I think the plan for variations now is:
                1. plain with mini marshmallows
                2. Aztec - cayenne/chili powder (although Mexican could be more interesting if it's both cinnamon and chili)
                3. holiday version with either holiday spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) or peppermint (candy canes... although I've never had minty hot cocoa so not sure how I feel about it)

                1. re: jen223

                  Since you were asking for alternative ideas, what about making one batch of hot cocoa mix and the making flavored chocolate covered spoons? The chocolate makes the cocoa much better and people can use what they want, or even just eat the chocolate off the spoons.

                  1. re: chowser

                    This sounds fun - would it be normal spoons but dipped in chocolate and hardened?

                  2. re: jen223

                    Wow! thinking about minty hot chocolate and going back to my college days ... include a little bottle of mint schnapps with your gift bag. Good stuff! lol

                    1. re: dave_c

                      Too funny... that reminds me of college, too, when we'd make our own liquid Andes mints by squeezing Hershey's syrup in our mouths, throwing in a swig of mint schnapps, and then shaking our heads to mix. I was very classy.

                      1. re: jen223

                        typical engineer...
                        (my major's physics--sign me up!)

                2. Have you tried making small test batches?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: paulj

                    Not yet - that's going to be my activity for Sunday, 10/28!

                  2. Instead of including a recipe you could do a little instructional video, post it on the website of your choosing, and include a link to it. Just don't say "bam."

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tim irvine

                      This could be dangerous... there would too high a probability that I would do too many things that I think are funny but no one else does. My fiance, on the other hand, freezes up in front of a camera, so it would just be "The Jen Hour", which I'm not sure the guests will appreciate when they just want to make some hot cocoa, haha.

                    2. Two thoughts:

                      Cocoa made with any dry milk mix is usually dreadful compared to cocoa made from milk + chocolate. Are you really wedded to the fact that it needs to include milk powder?Are you expecting all of these 150 people to take your mix camping?

                      Why not just make a simple and decent mix that is designed to be used with the milk of their choice.? It will tastes world better and be more compact for your favors? Make a batch of each and try them.

                      Joy of Cooking offers a simple recipe that I make often enough to know by heart: 3/4 milk + 1 T cocoa + 1 tsp sugar + 1/8 tsp vanilla optional.

                      I usually make a cup and use 1 1/2 T valrhona cocoa powder, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, pinch salt, and a little vanilla. I like extra chocolate flavor and think the valrhona is better balanced with extra sugar. You could use vanilla sugar instead. It is 1,000 times better than any lame cocoa mix I've ever been annoyed by.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: JudiAU

                        For a while Trader Joes carried a cocoa mix from Columbia that included whole dried milk. That was one of the best mixes I've tried.

                        For my home made blend, I include some cornstarch. This gives thickness (as it does in chocolate pudding) without the calories of cream.

                        1. re: paulj

                          is your homemade blend a dry mix? Would be interested in a recipe if you're willing to divulge!

                        2. re: JudiAU

                          I agree about the dried milk. If I were doing this, I'd make big chocolate truffles--that makes the best hot chocolate, just add one to the hot milk. Or, even better, just eat them.

                          1. re: JudiAU

                            I have some lazy friends. If I give them chocolate and instructions, I'm afraid they'll just eat the chocolate out of the jar. Don't think they'll go through the effort of putting a pot on the stove, heating up milk, and melting the chocolate. Adding boiling water or hot milk to something that dissolves quickly seems more manageable.

                            Agree that dry milk mix isn't the best, but if you add that to actual milk instead of water, won't that be extra creamy? my instructions will be to add milk to the mix (only use water if in a pinch).

                            1. re: jen223

                              Cocoa mix with dry milk added doesn't really make it extra creamy. It makes it taste heavy in the mouth and dilutes the flavor of the chocolate. They don't need to go through the awesome task of turning on the stone. They can just add the mix to hot milk from the microwave. I dont' understand how that is different than mixing in hot water.

                              You can add the mix before you heat up the milk as well but since the mix dissolves better in hot milk than cold they might think they've made a mistake when it doesn't mix.

                              Instructions: heat milk in the microwave or stovetop until quite hot; add mix and whisk or stir with a fork vigorously.

                              1. re: jen223

                                Cocoa mix with dry milk added doesn't really make it extra creamy. It makes it taste heavy in the mouth and dilutes the flavor of the chocolate. They don't need to go through the awesome task of turning on the stone. They can just add the mix to hot milk from the microwave. I dont' understand how that is different than mixing in hot water.

                                You can add the mix before you heat up the milk as well but since the mix dissolves better in hot milk than cold they might think they've made a mistake when it doesn't mix.

                                Instructions: heat milk in the microwave or stovetop until quite hot; add mix and whisk or stir with a fork vigorously.

                              2. re: JudiAU

                                Agreed. I made cocoa for xmas gifts one year, and as I recall it was just vlrhona, powdered sugar and salt. Told them to whisk it in the cup w/ milk and microwave.

                                Jen, I buy my V. cocoa powder at Chocoshpere.com for what I beleive to be a good price, at least compared to Whole Foods ;-)

                              3. I make hot cocoa mix every year for Xmas gifts. I use a combo of cocoa (1 part), dry milk (2 parts), vanilla coffee creamer(1 part) and powdered sugar(2 parts). It turns out great and everyone loves it. I found small mason jars and tiny scoops on Amazon.com.

                                1. Around this time of year you can find cinnamon baking chips. Hersheys even has chocolate cinnamon chips. You can mix those in to add a nice cinnamon taste to the hot chocolate, I feel like they would melt nicely. I will doing my own experiment on this soon! or you can try grinding them up in your dry mix with a food processor. Best of Luck, I know this is a lot later than your original post.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Cajho

                                    thanks, cajho! although my wedding was this past saturday, so they are done. we ended up doing the following 3 mixes:

                                    1. classic hot cocoa with marshmallows (dehydrated)
                                    2. spicy hot cocoa (cayenne, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon)
                                    3. salted caramel hot cocoa (sea salt, "caramel")

                                    the "caramel" requires more explanation. i'm pretty sure we turned 8lbs of sugar into caramel (almost burnt caramel), but i think the cocoa was so powerful that you really could barely taste it. eventually i gave up on that and decided on a last ditch effort tactic of using werther's hard candies. probably put a few bags in the food processor, and voila! delicious caramel flavor in the mix. who knew it was that easy? so much easier than heating up sugar, cooling it down, breaking into pieces for the food processor.

                                    the other thing is, i used my mother's food processor from 1979... one of the ones that you put a cover on top of and push down. way better than any food processor you can get these days, in my opinion. handled all the hard caramel like a charm!

                                    1. re: jen223

                                      Can you post the quantities of each ingredient including the caramel? I have an old Cuisinart FP probably bought in the early 1980s that should do a nice number of the Werther's caramel. Thank you.

                                  2. How did this work out for you. I have 10 pounds of cocoa (dry powder) and am hoping to replicate Angelina's (a tea shop in Paris) fabulous hot chocolate. Looking for the best dried milk.

                                    Please feel free to respond if you have the inclination.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Dannette

                                      What would make one dried milk better than another?

                                      In the USA you essentially have 3 choices:

                                      nonfat dried milk - easiest to find, generally mixes easily. Like skim milk. Better for baking than drinking (unless you like skim).

                                      whole fat dried milk - Nido (Nestle) brand from Mexico or Chile. Richest. Harder to mix

                                      Milkman low fat powdered milk ('with a touch of cream') - easiest to find in backpacking shops. Liked by campers who will drink it straight.

                                      For a while Trader Joes had a great cocoa mix. It was from Columbia, and included whole fat dried milk.

                                      1. re: Dannette

                                        I used whole fat (nido brand), and it worked great with the cocoa. Good luck!