Happy Halloween! This October has been packed—between making moldy tarts and floating eyeballs, naked spiderweb cakes and sparkling devil’s food cakes, pumpkin patch cookies and pumpkin-shaped cakes, it’s been a month absolutely full of spooky sweets and ghoulish goodies. So what could possibly be left to make at this late date?
Four words for you: Red Velvet Hot Chocolate. Four more words for you: make it right now!
I wanted to save an easy recipe for last. This is one you can whip up in just a few minutes, and enjoy it while watching a scary movie, or warm up with it after a chilly trick or treating session. I’m also including a recipe for almond witch finger cookies, because you haven’t lived until you’ve dipped an edible finger in a glass of blood-red chocolate milk. (Tell me again how Halloween became a children’s holiday? This is gruesome stuff!)
Let’s tackle the red velvet hot chocolate first. I looked at a few recipes online (because the golden rule of food blogging is that if you have an original idea, you’re sure to find that it’s been done by a dozen other people before you), and was disheartened to see that they all appeared to be regular hot chocolate with red food coloring added. That might be red hot chocolate, but it’s certainly not red velvet hot chocolate.
To me, the signature characteristics of red velvet cake are the buttermilk and light cocoa flavor of the cake. Without the buttermilk in the batter it’s just a boring, not-very-chocolatey cake, so I wanted to find a way to incorporate the unique buttermilk/cocoa flavor into the drink. Rather than using actual buttermilk (because that sounded iffy) I blended a little cream cheese into the milk before heating it. Voila! The milk was thicker and richer, and it had a flavor that called to mind not only the red velvet cake, but also the signature cream cheese frosting!
The cream cheese isn’t overwhelming—I only use 3 oz for 20 oz of milk—so it’s not like you’re drinking frosting here. But it does add a wonderful texture and just a hint of cream cheese flavor that blends nicely with the semi-sweet chocolate. Overall the hot chocolate’s flavor is complex and not too sweet, perfect for enjoying in small sips throughout the night.
As for the red color, well, you should keep scrolling if you’re not a food coloring fan. If natural coloring is your thing I’m sure you could use beet-based color, or something equally virtuous, but I went for good old fashioned Americolor Super Red gel. A few squirts of gel turned my dark hot chocolate into a burgundy masterpiece. If you want a bright red color, you can replace some or all of the dark chocolate with milk chocolate, or swap in some white chocolate instead. I thought the brownish-red did an admirable job of imitating blood…a Halloween drink necessity!
As for the witch finger cookies, well, I just couldn’t resist making these Halloween classics! My version is sort of an almond sugar cookie, with almond meal and almond extract. They’re soft and tender, with a bit of a crunch on the outside that works well with the crunchy, blood-red almond fingernail. These do require some chilling time if you want them to hold their shape, so they’re not a great last-minute recipe, but if you have a few hours, make them to dunk in your red velvet hot chocolate!
Biscotti and coffee is soooo last year. Now it’s all about finger cookies and red velvet hot chocolate. Get on this train!
Happy Halloween, friends! Have fun and stay safe.
I demonstrated how to make these treats on Facebook Live! If you’d like to watch the live video, click here!
Red Velvet Hot Chocolate and Almond Witch Finger Cookies
This hot chocolate naturally has a complex, not too sweet flavor, thanks to the dark chocolate and cream cheese. If you'd like a sweeter hot chocolate (or a brighter red color) you can substitute milk chocolate for some or all of the dark chocolate, or replace some of the dark chocolate with white chocolate. This recipe yields about 3 cups.
Place the milk and cream cheese in a blender and blend them together until smooth. (If you have a stick blender, you can just place them in a saucepan and blend them together right in the pan.)
Pour the milk-cream cheese mixture into a medium saucepan, and add the chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar, and salt. Place over medium heat and warm the milk, whisking occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and your mixture is smooth. Whisk in the red food coloring, adding more until you get a color you like. Serve hot!
Red Velvet Hot Chocolate can be made several days in advance and kept in the refrigerator until ready to use. Reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove.
Almond Witch Finger Cookies
- 8 oz butter at room temperature
- 8 oz 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 egg at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1 lb 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 2/3 oz 3/4 cup almond meal
- 1 tsp salt
- 48 whole blanched almonds see Note below
- 1-2 tsp red gel food coloring I used Americolor Super Red
Combine the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat them together on medium speed for about 1 minute, until fluffy and well-combined. Add the egg and both extracts, and beat on medium-low speed. It is natural for the mixture to look separated at this point.
Whisk together the flour, almond meal, and salt in a separate bowl. With the mixer running on low, add the flour to the dough, and mix just until most of the flour streaks disappear. Stop the mixer and finish mixing with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl very well.
Form the dough into a disc and wrap it in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for an hour, until firm. The dough can be kept for several days in the refrigerator if you want to make it in advance.
While you wait for the dough to chill, paint the almonds red with food coloring. Use a small food-safe paintbrush and red gel coloring, and paint the top of each almond until it is bright red. Let them sit on a sheet of paper towel and dry. The almonds can be painted several days in advance.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Take a walnut-sized ball of dough, (if you have a scale, I used about .75 oz per cookie) and roll the dough between your palms until it is a long thin snake, about 4 inches long. Place it one the baking sheet and press a red almond into one end for the fingernail. Press your finger about halfway down the dough to widen it for the knuckle. Use a toothpick to press horizontal lines into the cookie under the almond, and across the knuckle. Repeat until all of your cookies are formed.
Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, rotating halfway through. They shouldn't have much color—maybe a little darkening around the edges. Cool completely on the baking sheet. These cookies keep well when stored in an airtight container at room temperature. They are a little delicate because of the almonds, but if some fall off during storage, you can always stick them on using a little melted candy coating as glue.
If you can't find blanched almonds, you blanch your own regular almonds. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the almonds, and let them boil for 60 seconds. Strain the almonds, run them under cool water, then squeeze them between your fingers to quickly remove the almond skins. Pat them dry before coloring them red for this recipe.
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