Food Fight: Battle Hot Chocolate

Categories: Food Fight

Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Lately, our food fights have been both adventurous and, well, about food. It's been a while since we focused on comfort food and even longer since we focused on drinks. And with the horribly drizzly and cold weather this past week, Eating Our Words has wanted nothing more than a cup of hot chocolate and to stay inside.

For our money, the best hot chocolate is made at home. Our favorite recipe is from total food geek crush Alton Brown, both because it's easy and because you can keep some on hand for whenever your cravings take over. It also makes an excellent and thoughtful Christmas gift when packaged in a cute tin and paired with a festive mug.

Alton Brown's Hot Cocoa
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • Hot water

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water.

Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water. Stir to combine. Seal the rest in an airtight container, keeps indefinitely in the pantry. This also works great with warm milk.

Alton's recipe uses some unusual ingredients -- cayenne pepper? cornstarch? -- but the end result is a thick, creamy, multi-layered hot chocolate that's just sweet enough with a hint of an edge. But since we don't all have Alton puttering around our kitchen, nor the wherewithal to always make our own when a craving strikes, we sought out the best hot cocoa in town from two popular coffee shops.

Coffee Groundz, 2503 Bagby

Coffee Groundz and its opponent this week both suffer from some of the same barriers: a location/appearance that belies the clientele and atmosphere inside, a parking lot that fills up far too quickly, and tables inside that are usually taken by people who feel as if free wi-fi and shelter means that they've found their new home/office-away-from-home/office. Despite this, Coffee Groundz is warm, convivial and has managed to create an almost familial community in a bland strip mall in Midtown, with nary a douchebag in sight.

The coffee shop offers two kinds of hot chocolate: regular and Mexican. We prefer the Mexican for its cinnamon and chipotle twist, but went with regular for the battle. A large hot chocolate will run you $3.20 here, but you may want to go with a small. The cocoa is definitely on the sugary side and can be difficult to finish if you don't have a serious sweet tooth. The finish is also strikingly sweet. On the other hand, it's not as thick as some cocoas and therefore doesn't coat the mouth or tongue with its sweetness and manages to not become cloying.

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