The Hipster’s Cookbook: Something to Warm Up With


Every week in The Hipster’s Cookbook, Meghan Bongartz shows you how to make delicious food on a tight budget.

It’s still cold out, obviously. I never get tired of the joke that in Chicago, we have two seasons: winter and construction weather. It’s starting to look like it’s not much of a joke, though, because this winter has been pretty brutal, and there’s no end in sight. We haven’t seen temperatures above freezing in a long time, which means that 20 degrees is starting to feel downright balmy. I’m feeling a little over it.

Right now there’s so much snow on the ground that I feel like I’m in an old Campbell’s Soup commercial every day when I get home from work – the ones where a snow man walks through the door and slowly turns back into a boy while eating a bowl of hot soup made by his mother. And really, on days when the elements get the better of you, what could possibly be better than coming home to something warm and liquid to defrost you from the inside out? It’s been a few years since I’ve come home to a bowl of soup from my mom waiting for me in the kitchen (being an adult is truly tragic sometimes), but hot cocoa is easy to have ready minutes after walking through the door – and, arguably, is more of a treat.

If you’re not aware, hot cocoa and hot chocolate are two different drinks. Hot cocoa uses cocoa powder, whereas hot chocolate involves literally melting chocolate in milk and/or cream, meaning that cocoa has a more distinct chocolate flavor, but hot chocolate is richer. I’ve been experimenting with both of them for years, and I think I prefer the former because of its more distinct chocolate flavor. I also think I have the perfect recipe. I’ve been making hot cocoa like this since I was 10, and not to knock Swiss Miss, but it’s just better when it’s made with real milk, real cocoa, and a stovetop instead of a microwave. This recipe makes enough for one, but is easy to increase if you’re sharing.


Perfect Hot Cocoa

1 cup 2% or whole milk

2 heaping tbs dark cocoa powder

1 1/2tsp granulated sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp almond extract

Dash of cinnamon

1) Heat the milk in a small saucepan over a medium low flame.

2) As the milk heats, stir in cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla, almond, and cinnamon. Stir continuously to ensure that the cocoa powder is completely dissolved and the milk does not burn.

3) Remove from heat just as bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pot. Do not allow the milk to come to a full boil.

4) Transfer to a mug and garnish with marshmallows or whipping cream as desired.