I heard a rumor last year. Not the ugly sort of rumor this results from unseemly gossip, but the good kind that you hope is true. I can’t remember where I read it or who said it, but I tucked it in the back of my mind until just last week when I put it to the test.
Here’s what I heard: whipped cream, when spread thin, freezes up like a dream and can be cut into charming shapes using garden-variety cookie cutters.
And guess what, it does work like a dream. A creamy, chocolatey dream when whipped cream hearts are set over steaming cups of hot cocoa and served to your beloveds come next week on Valentine’s Day.
Making your own cocoa is dreamy too, and easy, and better than what comes in those little packets that my kids, and I’m guessing yours too, are always trying to slip into the shopping cart. I almost bought a box a few weeks ago, a weak moment in the supermarket with persistent children at my side. But I stopped in my tracks once I read what’s in there: partially hydrogenated oil, corn syrup, artificial colors, and a small handful of other unsavory items I don’t know how to spell or pronounce.
So I’ll keep making my own. And hope you do too. It’s so good. And with a pretty whipped cream heart on top? The cutest cup of Valentine’s Day cocoa ever.
HOT COCOA WITH WHIPPED CREAM HEARTS
Winter and cups of cocoa go hand-in-hand in our house, and making your own is worth the little bit of extra effort it takes. Adding whipped cream cut-outs is a charming, special-occasion addition to an already delicious treat. You can modify the whipped cream as desired by adding sugar and/or vanilla to taste. The cocoa recipe makes one cup; multiply the recipe for as many cups as are needed.
For the Whipped Cream Hearts:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Line a 9X11-inch baking pan with parchment paper so the paper drapes over two sides.
Pour the cream into a large bowl and use an electric mixer to whip the cream just until it forms stiff peaks.
Spoon the whipped cream into the prepared pan and spread it out until it is about 1/2-inch thick. It won’t cover the entire surface of the pan. Put the whipped cream into the freezer until it is frozen, at least an hour.
Once frozen, remove the pan from the freezer. Hold on to two sides of the parchment to lift the cream out of the pan and set it on your work surface. Press a heart-shaped cookie cutter into the cream, cutting out as many hearts as will fit. Store the hearts in a covered container in the freezer until ready to use.
Makes roughly 8 to 10 hearts (the number will vary depending on the size of your cookie cutter).
For the Cocoa:
3/4 cup low-fat milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (optional)
Put the milk, cocoa powder, and sugar in a small saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Whisk vigorously to incorporate the cocoa powder and sugar into the milk. Once the cocoa powder is mixed in, stir occasionally until the cocoa is warmed to your liking, being sure that the sugar dissolves. Add the vanilla and stir again.
Pour into a mug, sprinkle the optional chopped chocolate over the cocoa, and top with a whipped cream heart.
Makes one cup of cocoa.