I didn’t mean to post another pumpkin recipe so soon. “Play it cool, Liz,” I thought. “Space them out so people don’t think you’re a pumpkin freak. How about a nice vanilla cake recipe?”
But then the sky split open. After a cloudy Sunday morning and a mostly-clear afternoon, a monstrous rainstorm just swooped in, bringing bright white lightening, crashing thunder, and buckets of rain. I’m huddled around a heater wearing fuzzy rabbit pajamas. Jason is on the balcony chanting, “Come, Seattle weather, come!”
And we both need hot chocolate, stat.
This isn’t your grandma’s Swiss Miss hot chocolate, though. This is pumpkin hot chocolate. Unlike the traditional powdered mixes that get their flavor from cocoa powder, this is more like a “sipping chocolate” that calls for melted semi-sweet chocolate to impart chocolate flavor.
It’s thick. It’s rich. It’s a bit like drinking a candy bar, if your candy bar was also flavored with pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, and orange zest.
I admit I had my doubts about mixing pumpkin puree into a beverage. What if it was too thick, or if there were stringy bits, or if it was like drinking pumpkin pie—but not in the good way?
I needn’t have worried. Yes, it is thick, but in the coats-the-throat-with-goodness way all sipping chocolates should be. I avoided the possibility of stringy bits by straining the pumpkin mixture before the final mixing. And the pumpkin flavor itself is mild, more of a background note that mingles with the spices than an all-out squash assault.
In short, this is the perfect drink for rainy nights…and crisp mornings…oh, and lazy afternoons. Let’s just agree to have pumpkin hot chocolate anytime.
Pumpkin Hot Chocolate
- 1-1/2 cups milk preferably whole milk
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree not pumpkin pie filling
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 whole cloves slightly crushed
- 1 tbsp chopped candied ginger
- Zest from 1/2 orange
- 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise
- 2 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate about 1/3 cup chopped
- pinch sea salt
- 2 tbsp brown sugar more or less to taste
- Garnishes like whipped cream marshmallows, cinnamon, or chocolate
Place the milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, and add the pumpkin, cinnamon stick, cloves, chopped candied ginger, orange zest, and vanilla bean. Slowly heat the milk and bring it to a simmer, so that bubbles are forming around the edges but it never comes to a boil.
Remove the pan from the heat and cover it with a lid to allow the flavors to infuse for at least 30 minutes. If you have more time, you can let it infuse longer, even overnight. Just make sure to refrigerate the milk if it sits out longer than an hour or so.
When you’re ready to finish the hot chocolate, strain the milk mixture into a clean saucepan, discarding the solids. Bring the milk back up to a simmer, then remove the pan from the heat.
Add the chopped semi-sweet chocolate and the pinch of salt.
Whisk gently until the chocolate dissolves and the mixture is completely smooth. Taste the hot chocolate, and add brown sugar as needed. Depending on the sweetness of your chocolate and your personal taste, you might want more or less sugar than the recipe calls for.
Pour into small mugs to serve, and garnish with whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate shavings, or a dash of cinnamon.