A GOOD cup of hot chocolate is perfect comfort food, and for once, we can enjoy it guilt-free.
Milk and chocolate are a healthy enough combination as long as a high level of sugar doesn’t cancel the benefits, and that there are little or no additives.
We can make hot chocolate from any square of chocolate. Just put one in a cup and add hot milk, or mix it in a saucepan.
The sugar content is likely to make it burn in the saucepan, so keep the temperature low.
This could be the most economical way to make a cup of hot chocolate.
There are also delicious chocolate discs and buttons available in speciality shops, which I have written about in the past.
Or look at powdered chocolate drinks which just need water added.
We sought chocolate with the best flavour and the least sugar, and this eliminated quite a few products, with over sugaring (or worse substitutes) dampening the wonderful taste of chocolate and tasting quite synthetically sweet, not to mention damaging to teeth.
The usual rule of thumb applies — the shorter the list of ingredients, the better.
None of the samples which made the final eight were disliked by tasters, but when we looked at the detail of the ingredients we found a high sugar content in the cheaper ones.
In most cases, the drinks tasted better when made with milk instead of water.
With unsweetened cocoa powder mixed with Madagascan 75% cocoa solids chocolate, leaving just 25% for sugar and cocoa butter, this is the purest of the selection.
Rich and with the best chocolate flavour and silky texture, this appealed to the connoisseurs, but less to those who like milk chocolate. From The Chocolate Shop, English Market, Cork.
With a commendably, relatively short list of ingredients, mostly Fairtrade, this offering comes with 60% sugars, 31% fat reduced cocoa powder, with 60% cocoa solids in the additional 11% dark chocolate and vanilla extract.
We followed the recommendation of four teaspoons of powder to 250ml of hot skimmed milk and ended up with a deliciously rich drink liked by young and older tasters.
These blocks of chocolate on a spoon are stirred into hot milk. Shana Wilkie’s Midleton-based organic bean to bar has a short list of ingredients, including 54% cocoa solids. It tastes deliciously dark and decadent.
Meanwhile, sugar and whole milk powder are added to 35% cocoa in a short list from Cork-based O’Conaill’s, which was liked by lovers of milk chocolate. Both spoons got equal marks.
This is a sweetened blend of 2% black tea extract, skimmed milk, spices, vegetable and coconut fats, dried glucose with 15% chocolate. Three teaspoons of this powder is stirred with hot water or hot frothy milk. Gluten-free, the sugar content is a high 63.9% .
The chocolate taste was far less than other samples, but the spices had a hint of Christmas. Pleasant and interesting, but not as enticing to true blue cocoa drinkers.
42% drinking chocolate means 25% cocoa solids with sugar and fat reduced cocoa powder is blended with skimmed milk powder, glucose syrup, sugar and lactose, bringing sugars up to a high 59.9%.
We compared this with Nestlé Nesquik Hot Chocolate (400g €3.79) which has a whopping 75.9% sugars. Neither had a strong taste of chocolate, but were enjoyed by very sweet-toothed tasters. Both were given equal marks.
Recommended to be made with water, this drink has whey powder top of the list, with 26% cocoa powder.
Sugars seem low at 33%, but the sweetener Sucralose is not counted as a sugar and, at over 500 times sweeter than sugar, it is very sweet. Salt is quite high at 1.1% but enhances the chocolate flavour.
Mixed with the recommended amount of milk, this tastes like a diluted Wispa bar. Sugar comes top of the list, and sugars content, which includes sugars from added skimmed milk powder, maltodextrin and glucose syrup, at 60% is high as is the salt at 1.18% (0.33g in a mugful).
Of the three we tasted from this store, this one had the richest taste and the least number of ingredients with 38% cocoa powder made from at least 36% cocoa solids from Fairtrade farms.
Commendably, sugar is the only other ingredient, though sugars at 57% are quite high.
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