I know it’s only mid-November, but there are definitely some major indicators that Christmas is on its way. Christmas tree up in the town centre? Check. Jingle Bells playing in the shops ALREADY? Check. Novelty Santa toilet seat cover purchased? Check. (Alarmingly, I’m not making that up. I actually parted with money for one the other day. Help me.) But I find most of these things easy to ignore- not because I’m totally miserable, but because it’s nice to keep Christmas special and not celebrate it for 1/4 of the year. But when it comes to the Starbucks red cups…sign me up. Earlier the better. Special, special flavours! Imagine my delight when I walked past the Starbucks poster to see – yum yum yum – ‘Almond and Honey Hot Chocolate’. How festive, I thought. How delicious and comforting. I must buy one. So I did. And I was disappointed. Now, I’m sorry Starbucks. Usually I have a lot of time for you- heck, I even worked at Starbucks for a short time when I was 17 – but that drink was not what I was expecting from something with that name. It just tasted like normal hot chocolate, with a load of almond essence in it. Too almond-y, to thin, too not what I wanted.
So I came home, and made what I thought almond and honey hot chocolate should be. And this post is documents the result. Admittedly, I can’t see Starbucks using half a cup of cream, or a bit wodge of marzipan in all their drinks…but if they did…wowza. This hot chocolate is thick from the blended marzipan, subtly almond-y and tastes like a Christmas Market in Bavaria (I imagine). It’s very creamy, due to the melted chocolate in it, and the fact it’s made with half double cream and half milk, and it has a huge fluffy cloud of whipped honey cream on the top. (Confession: I don’t love honey, and I don’t have any runny honey in my kitchen. I used agave syrup in my whipped cloud- but do use honey, just to justify the name of this drink. Please.) Top it with some crisp toasty almonds and it winter comfort in a cup. It is, to use the vernacular here in the West Country, lush.
A word of caution though – although this recipe uses almond essence, you only want the tiniest amount. I put in 2 drops only – not big splashy drops. Little drops. Like little rain drops (I hope this is scientific enough). Remember, you can always put more in but once it’s in there, it’s incredibly pungent. Go easy.
This recipe makes two small mugs or about two teacups’ worth. It’s very rich, so probably all you need… but you could just double the recipe if you want bigger cups.
Recipe: Marzipan Hot Chocolate with Honey Cream and Toasted Almonds
200ml double cream (for the hot chocolate mixture)
125g dark chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 drops almond essence
100-150ml whipping or double cream
1/2 tablespoon clear runny honey or agave syrup
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
How to make it
1. Heat a dry non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the flaked almonds and spread them over the base of the frying pan evenly. After a few minutes, you should smell the almonds beginning to toast, and they should be turning golden brown. Turn off the heat, and transfer the toasted almonds to a small plate or piece of kitchen towel.
2. Heat the milk and cream together in a saucepan.
3. Melt the chocolate (using your preferred method- I heated it gently in a small saucepan) and whisk it into the hot milk and cream.
4. Add vanilla and almond essences to the mixture. Continue to heat until it reaches the desired temperature.
5. While the hot chocolate is heating, whip some whipping or double cream until begins to thicken. Add the honey/agave syrup and continue to whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Set aside.
6. Transfer the hot chocolate to a blender or food processor, and add the marzipan. Blend for 20-30 seconds until the marzipan is incorporated.
7. Pour the hot chocolate into mugs or glasses. Top with a dollop of the honeyed whipped cream, and top with the toasted almonds.