Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix and Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows
If there is any one thing I could pin down as my absolute favorite thing about cold weather (which frankly I don't actually like at all - not even a little) it would have to be my love of hot chocolate. I actually drink it year round, but there is something so much more satisfying about having a big cup of really good hot chocolate when there is snow on the ground or a chill in the air.
Ever since I was little my favorite gift to give during the holidays has been homemade treats. I would obsessively collect recipes and ideas for things I wanted to make for our annual treat plates, boxes or bags to take around to family, friends and neighbors. The treats were always well appreciated and I felt like I was really putting my heart and soul into giving my loved ones something from the heart.
Enter a husband, full time job, and three small children later and needless to say, the budget and time commitment available to me to bake several different kinds of treats has decreased considerably. I have still wanted to make something really special to give as a gift though and for the last several years the answer has been in sharing packages of homemade hot cocoa or hot chocolate mix and really good homemade marshmallows.
In recent years it seems that gourmet flavored versions have been all the rage, and I couldn't resist working on a new concoction to give as gifts to friends and family this holiday season. Since I often find my incredible love of chocolate competing with my love of really good salted caramel, I thought the best variation to work on would be one that could combine the best of both flavors.
However you decide to package a gift of hot chocolate mix and marshmallows—whether in cute jars with ribbons, cellophane bags or cute tins—your lucky loved ones are going to be so happy when they taste a sweet, slightly salty cup of chocolate with that deep hint of caramel flavor. Add the homemade marshmallows which melt so ooey-gooey and your gift will be a guaranteed favorite this year.
Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe
Original Recipe by Holly at PheMOMenon
(Makes 2 1/2 pounds of mix - enough for 8 half-pint jars)
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons pure vanilla
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment or foil, set aside.
- Place the sugar in a large heavy pan or large skillet, nonstick if possible.
- Melt the sugar without stirring over medium heat.
- Once the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan a bit to melt the sugar melt and not burn. It will be a deep amber color.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla carefully.
- Whisk the mixture until the caramel is smooth again.
- Immediately and quickly pour the caramel onto the lined baking sheet and allow it to spread without touching. Set aside and let the caramel harden—1 hour at least.
When you are ready to make the mix, use the back of a large spoon to tap the caramel several times into small broken pieces, small enough to fit into the tube of a large food processor. Turn the processor on, and while running, feed the caramel pieces into the tube so the processor pulverizes the caramel into a fine powder. Keep adding a few pieces at a time until it is all powder (there will be a cloud of caramel dust in the bowl and floating up out of the tube). Once it is done processing, turn it off and follow the steps below to make the mix.
Chocolate Mix Ingredients
- 1 1/2 cups good quality Dutch cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons fleur de sel or good sea salt
- 1 cup dry milk powder
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 10 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips
- Add all the ingredients, except the chocolate, to the food processor.
- Put the lid back on and process the mixture until smooth.
- Add the chocolate to the bowl and allow turn the processor back on.
- Let it run until the chocolate has been ground into a fine powder mixed with everything else.
Store airtight and in a cool, dry place.
If giving as a gift, a half-pint size canning jar will fit about 5 ounces of mix. This recipe makes 2 1/2 lbs of mix (40 ounces), so enough for 8 jars. Make sure to include the mixing directions below with your gift. If you make the jars as described above, a half-pint jar will have enough for 4 servings in it.
To mix the drink, add 3 tablespoons of mix to 1 cup of hot milk. Stir or whisk well. Serve with homemade marshmallows or top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings or sprinkles.
Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows
Original Recipe by Holly at PheMOMenon
(Makes about 50 marshmallows)
- 4 packets of Knox gelatin
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup light corn syrup - divided
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup confectioners' (powdered) sugar
- Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan, preferably with straight sides.
- Line the pan with a large piece of parchment as a sling so the edges extend over the 13-inch side and lightly grease the parchment.
- Set aside.
- In a small microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin powder over the cold water, stir, and set aside to let the gelatin bloom.
- In a saucepan gently stir the sugar together with 1/2 cup of the corn syrup and 1/2 cup of water. Try not to splash the ingredients around.
- Heat the sugar mixture over medium-high heat and use a candy thermometer to watch the temperature.
- Bring the sugar mixture to a low boil and cook it to the soft ball stage or about 235 degrees on the thermometer. Do not worry about stirring the mixture, just gently swirl the mixture occasionally to help it melt. It will be completely clear and melted when done, and should not caramelize or change color. This only takes about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the other 1/2 cup corn syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Gently heat the gelatin mixture in the microwave just enough to melt it all and make it liquid enough to pour - about 30 seconds on high should do it.
- When the gelatin is melted, turn the mixer on low speed and slowly pour the gelatin into the corn syrup while the mixer is still running.
- Once the sugar syrup is ready, slowly pour the syrup into the mixing bowl while it is still running on low speed. Try to keep the stream to the sides of the bowl and not in the whisk area so that it doesn't send your sugar syrup flying up the sides of the bowl instead of down into the gelatin mixture.
- When all the sugar mixture is added, turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat the mixture for 5 minutes - it will be white and very fluffy.
- Add the vanilla and salt, then turn the speed up on the mixer to high and beat 1 minute more.
- Work quickly and pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared 9x13 pan and use a rubber or offset spatula to spread the marshmallow mixture as evenly as possible in the pan.
- Using a sifter or fine-mesh strainer, sift a little bit of the confectioners' sugar over the marshmallows layer.
- Set the pan aside for at least six hours to let the marshmallows set up before cutting.
- When you are ready to cut the marshmallows, have a clean cutting surface ready and use the parchment sling in the pan to lift the marshmallow out in one big rectangle.
- Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the marshmallow into squares or rectangles the size you want. To get about 50 marshmallows, cut the large rectangle into approximately 1-inch rows, then cut the rows into 1-inch squares.
- Toss the marshmallows, a few at a time into a bowl with the remaining sifted confectioners' sugar to coat the outside and keep them from sticking together.
Store the marshmallows in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Holly blogs at PheMOMenon and Sweet & Simple about the adventures of life with two wild little boys and one very sweet baby girl with Down syndrome. She is also married to a professional skydiver. This all makes for an interesting life at their house. So, in an attempt to keep what sanity motherhood and marriage have left her with, she is trying to conquer her world, one recipe at a time. It’s cheaper than therapy, and much more tasty! She is also the creator of The Hive – the blog forum for food bloggers in Utah.