Well, it’s Christmas Eve (technically Christmas now) and I can’t sleep due to extreme excitement. I adore Christmas. My parents always managed to make it so completely magical that I can’t wait to pass on these traditions to someone else, someday. Even now that my brother and I are grown, we come home from school to a house decorated from top to bottom in various Christmas paraphernalia. Each step on the staircase has a little mini christmas tree on it. The towels in the bathrooms have all been replaced by green and red ones. I made a latte this morning in a coffee mug with Frosty the snowman on it. When I tried to toast a bagel today, I reached for a plain old white plate and was met with my mother’s fierce stance upon turning around. “Use the Christmas plates, dear,” and she handed me a plate lined with golden stars.
I think my favorite memory of Christmas has to be the “little tree.” See, in my house, there were two trees. The big tree (the one with all the presents from my parents/family etc) and the little tree. The little tree was extra special because only Santa could put gifts under there. The little tree was upstairs, whereas the big tree was downstairs, and it was right outside of my bedroom door. There were never any presents there until Christmas morning, and they were always wrapped in completely different, magical-looking paper that my parents acquired from god knows where. Some years it was metallic and shiny yet crinkly looking, almost as if it had travelled from the North Pole. On each present, in an equally metallic/unearthly looking ink, was either my name or my brother’s, written in calligraphy. Santa had wonderful penmanship.
On Christmas morning, my brother and I would excitedly run out of our bedrooms to see the little tree. Then, we would carefully take a few of the presents, go to my parents room, and sit on the end of their bed taking turns opening them. See, my parents were always equally astonished at all the wonderful things Santa had brought us, making us open them slowly so they too could relish the moment. And the presents were so, so neat. I suspect that when my parents travelled for work, they made a habit of picking up really odd little things that would be impossible to find in our home town. Everything looked hand-made and probably created lovingly by elves: toys, puzzles, even things that had our names individually carved into them.
After the little tree was opened, we would all head downstairs to eat some breakfast (and make coffee for my poor parents who were probably up until the wee hours of the morning wrapping). On the table, we would see the remnants of whatever we left for Santa the night before. Once, we left a carrot for the reindeer who did the best job that night, and (I still have no idea quite how they did it) there were two GIANT reindeer teeth prints still in it. My brother and I stood with mouths agape when we saw that.
Following breakfast, we opened our stockings. Had more tea and coffee, munched on delicious things we’d received, and then opened the big tree. There was none of this let’s-open-presents-as-quickly-as-we-can-all-simultaneously business. We opened them individually, one at a time, taking turns. It prolonged the process into the late afternoon, but we truly loved every minute of it.
I loved when we were all done, sitting in a mound of wrapping paper and looking at all of our new things, when my Dad would make homemade hot chocolate for us to sip. I used to lurk right behind him, watching him make it so I could get the first glass. It’s delicious, rich, and feels like home. Let’s make some 🙂
Start with some whole milk. Of course you can use 2% here too, but I wouldn’t recommend going much lower than that or it tends to be a little thin. Just measure out as much as you need. Keep it warm over low heat.
Couple pinches of cinnamon
Bit of vanilla
Pinch of salt to help accentuate all the flavors
Now for your chocolate. This is a matter of taste; I used Lindt 70% dark, and for two people I only used 4 squares. However, add the squares in a couple at a time and taste as you go. How rich do you want it? Whisk the chocolate until it’s incorporated into the milk. Give it some time and do it over a low heat.
Now add in sugar to taste. Put in about a tablespoon and taste it; if you want more, add in another. At this point adjust any other flavors you want; more cinnamon? Vanilla? Chocolate?
Ok keep it on low and stir often. Now for the whipped cream! The amount depends on how many mugs you’re making.
Splash of vanilla
Bit of sugar to sweeten it up.
Now whip it until it reaches stiff peaks!
Soooo hard to resist eating this with a spoon.
I shaved a bit of chocolate on top for extra prettiness 😉
Hot Chocolate with Vanilla Whipped Cream
- whole milk
- dark (70% or so) chocolate
- pinch of salt
- couple pinches of cinnamon
- whipping cream (35%)
- shaved chocolate for garnish, optional
- Heat some whole milk on low heat in a saucepan. The amount you need depends on how many people you’re feeding. Count on two cups per person
- Put in a couple pinches of cinnamon, pinch of salt, splash of vanilla, and sugar to taste. Whisk to incorporate. Then, add in your chocolate squares. I did about 2 squares per person. Whisk until it’s all melted and then taste it to determine if you need more chocolate or sugar.
- In a mixing bowl, whip as much whipped cream as you need for garnish. Add in some sugar to taste, and a splash of vanilla.
- Serve! Grate/shave some chocolate on top for extra pretty points.