Winter can be cold and gloomy no matter where you are, so throwing together a hot chocolate bar can be a fun way to warm up the season.
Invite a few of your favorites to come spend the day catching up after the crazy holiday season. Homemade hot chocolate is the perfect excuse to try out endless mix-in flavors, so get creative with candied hazelnuts, caramel sauce, graham crackers, candy canes, homemade marshmallows, chocolate chips … you name it!
The location doesn’t have to be extravagant, for this setting my backyard worked nicely. I set my favorite table, added in a cozy chair and throw, a few glittered logs (doesn’t every woman glitter her firewood?!), hung golden lanterns in the trees, a few simple greenery and gold arrangements and my best serving dishes. Napkins tied with twine and each friend’s name provided the perfect personal touch. (I asked my favorite paper company, Paper Route Collective, to create simple, classic invitations and tags – just to give it a special twist.)
When the ladies arrived we grabbed our mugs and immediately got to chatting. Laughter took over the afternoon! The favorite of the hot chocolate toppings was definitely the candied hazelnuts — find the recipe (and others) below!
Hot Cocoa Mix
½ cup granulated sugar
3 oz bittersweet chocolate (the darkest you can find), roughly chopped
½ cocoa powder, the best!
¼ tsp vanilla extract (or a bean split)
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
Combine all ingredients until powdered.
Makes approx. 1 ½ cups of mix – enough for 8-10 cups. Store in a glass jar (or package in small jars to gift)!
Heat ¾ cup milk and ¼ cup half and half in a saucepan over low heat until bubbled on the edges. Add 3 Tbsp hot cocoa mix and whisk thoroughly until well incorporated.
Candied Bourbon Hazelnuts
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup bourbon
2 cups whole hazelnuts, toasted
In a medium saucepan, combine water and sugar. Cook over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Add hazelnuts and bourbon. Cook down until the syrup is reduced by half (about 15 minutes). Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. When the hazelnuts and syrup are reduced, place them on a foil lined cookie tray and bake for 15-18 minutes or until the syrup has hardened. Let cool completely and break apart the nuts. (Alternative: try this with any nut!)
Photography: Melissa Becker; Hot Chocolate, mix-ins: Cacao Sweets & Treats; Boxwood Wreath: L’abeille Vintage; Paper Goods: Paper Route Collective; Hello Darling card: Evermore Paper Co.; Gold Glittered Jars: Katie Pietraszak