Happy new year! The holidays are over and regular life has started again. I planned to leap into this new year with a fresh, veg-packed recipe to drastically leave behind all holiday indulgence. But after an unusually soft winter, temperatures have now dropped to freezing point and the first snow fall has announced itself. So gently easing into the new year with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate seems like a far more fitting option.
On a cold day, few things spell cosy more than hot chocolate. But this wintery treat is elevated to lush comfort when you add to it the warming, uplifting flavours of mixed spices. To flavour this cocoa I used a mixture of my favourite chai spices. Sweet and warm-flavoured cinnamon, cloves and star anise, fresh and citrussy cardamom, and the heating kick of black pepper and fresh ginger. All of them pair wonderfully with chocolate and milk and the resulting drink feels like a hug in a mug.
To get the most pure and concentrated flavour, I make a fresh infusion of whole spices. Simply bring water and your selection of spices to a boil and leave on a gentle simmer for 1½-2 hours. This will give the flavours ample time to develop and produce a slightly reduced chai strong-flavoured enough to shine through the dark flavour of the chocolate. Because of the infusion time, this part requires a bit of planning ahead. As I use the hot chocolate as an afternoon pick me up for the girls and myself, I usually put the chai ingredients on the stove on a quiet mid-morning moment and leave them to do their thing. As a bonus, this makes the house smell wonderful in anticipation of the treat to come! Alternatively, you can easily make the infusion ahead and keep it in the fridge or even the freezer until the moment you want to use it.
To make the hot chocolate, stir a generous dose of cocoa powder to a paste with a dash of plant milk. Dilute this with one part hot chai and two parts hot plant milk and sweeten to taste. I personally like to make this drink a bit less sweet than my regular hot cocoa. The addition of at least a bit of sweetener is recommended, though, because this will magically bring out the flavours of the chai.
Now just sip and enjoy. This is self-care done well, and we can all use a bit of that right now! I wish you all the best for this upcoming year.
Vegan hot chocolate with freshly infused chai spices – 4 p.
for the chai spice infusion *)
- 20 g fresh ginger, sliced
- 1 tbsp. cloves
- 1 tbsp. green cardamoms
- ½ tbsp. black peppercorns
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 anise stars
- 1 litre water
for the hot chocolate
- 8 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Dutch processed)
- 600 ml unsweetened plant milk of your choice (oat milk, soy milk and almond milk are all delicious)
- maple or agave syrup, or other sweetener to taste
- ground cinnamon, to top
*) The chai ingredients will yield about 650 ml of reduced infusion, roughly twice as much as you’ll be using in one go. The remaining chai can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, to be reheated when you feel like another cup. Alternatively, you can freeze it in an ice cube tray and heat a few cubes at a time to make hot chocolate or chai latte on demand.
Begin making the chai infusion on a quiet moment of the day, at least 2 hours before you want to use it, to give the flavours time to develop.
Put all chai spices in a small pan, along with the water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to keep the mixture on a gentle simmer. Leave to infuse, uncovered, for about 1½ hours, until the colour is deep brown and the volume has been reduced by a third.
Strain the chai into a jug and set aside until using.
To make the hot chocolate, add a splash of the plant milk to the cocoa powder and stir until you have a thick, glossy and lump-free paste. Divide the paste over four mugs.
Bring the remaining plant milk to a boil and whisk to make it frothy. Reheat the chai if necessary.
Fill the mugs up to a third with the hot chai and stir to dilute the chocolate paste. Top with the frothed plant milk.
Sweeten to taste with maple or agave syrup and sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon.