Two years ago, for our first Christmas in Tokyo, my thoughtful husband did everything he could to make me feel at home. I had a really difficult time not being in Minnesota with my family and he knew that I was struggling a bit. Fortunately, Christmas in Tokyo is just as festive as Minnesota, if not more so, minus the snow of course. One of the things Brad got to keep me in the holiday spirit was a sampling of hot chocolate stir sticks.They were simply blocks of chocolate at the end of wooden sticks. I don’t know where I had been, but I had never seen these before and I was so excited to give them a try! They reminded me of an Argentine Submarino (Argentine hot chocolate) that we enjoyed in Buenos Aires a few years ago. It’s hard to find anything more fitting for hot milk than a big hunk of chocolate that slowly melts, creating a rich, comforting mug of wonderfulness.
Two years after the idea entered my mind, I finally got around to making my own hot chocolate stir sticks. I wanted to try some new flavors that I hadn’t seen before, so I used what I had in my pantry cabinet to add a little flare to the dark chocolate base for the sticks. One clear option was the addition of matcha powder to the chocolate. After all, what is Tokyo Terrace without a little Japanese twist, right? I also made an almond and pink sea salt stir stick, and another with warm, spicy cinnamon.
There are so many options for creative flavor combinations- you could even make the sticks a little bigger and add mini marshmallows if you wanted to! Crushed peppermint candy is another classic addition. These stir sticks also makes very nice Christmas or hostess gifts. All you need is an ice-cube tray, some chocolate chips, and perhaps something to dress them up- a ribbon to tie at the top of the stick, or a sprinkling of powdered sugar to make them look pretty. These are easy to make in large batches, so you can get a bunch of gifts taken care of easily!
Hot Chocolate Stir Sticks
Makes about 12-16 stir sticks
I’m providing the basic recipe for you below without the addition of other flavors. If you’d like to add your own creative twist to the basic recipe, it’s relatively simple. If you are using almond extract or peppermint extract, go with about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon for 4 cups of chocolate chips. If you are using something like cinnamon or other dried spices, add a little at a time and taste it to make sure it is acceptable for your palate. Keep in mind, however, that these will be slightly mellowed out in flavor when they are added to the hot milk. If you use sea salt, a sprinkling on the top of the chocolate is plenty for some, but if the salt is particularly mild, you may want to add a touch to the melted chocolate as well.
4 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
Bamboo skewers or craft sticks
piping bag or ziplock
ice cube tray
Put the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. With the microwave on its lowest setting, microwave the chips for 30-45 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir. Continue doing this in about 30 second increments, stirring after each increment, until the chocolate chips are almost completely melted. There should still be a couple lumps left- just stir everything together and they should disappear. If they don’t, place the bowl back in the microwave for about 10 seconds. When the chocolate is completely melted, stir in the cocoa powder.
Let the chocolate sit for 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer the melted chocolate to a piping bag or ziplock. If you are using a ziplock, clip the bottom corner of the bag with scissors. Pipe the chocolate into your ice cube tray. Use a small spoon to smooth the top of the chocolate. Insert the stir sticks and allow to sit (at room temperature is best) until the chocolate sets. If you notice imperfections in the finished product, melt more chocolate (I like to make a creamy ganache by adding about a tablespoon of cream to 1 cup of chocolate chips) and dip the stir sticks to create a nice outer layer. Allow them to cool on wax or parchment paper. This is also a great time to add your garnishes- crushed peppermint, sea salt, etc. If you adding cinnamon or powdered sugar, the chocolate will need to be nearly cooled so that the powder doesn’t dissolve.
For the hot chocolate:
Heat 6 oz. of milk in a small saucepan or gently in the microwave. When the milk is hot (not boiling, just letting off a nice steam) transfer it to a mug. Stir with your hot chocolate stir stick until the chocolate has completely melted and sip away!