If you are on a bit of a budget, shift your attention to desserts and after-dinner drinks instead of serving a full meal. Kick off your party with a spiked hot chocolate station and versatile, homemade marshmallows. The hot chocolate is a simple recipe that can be made ahead of time and warmed just before guests arrive. To let guests decide how they want to spike their beverage, I like to offer a few different liquors, such as Kahlua, flavored vodka or crème de menthe. To make this DIY dessert even more festive, try homemade marshmallows. If you have never tried a homemade marshmallow, you are in for a treat. They are so much more flavorful and tender than store-bought, and well worth the effort. I experimented with a few different recipes, settling on one from food personality Alton Brown. I made a couple of adjustments of my own and was pleased with the end result. The homemade marshmallows are light, fluffy and full of vanilla flavor. They are a treat to top off any holiday hot chocolate—be it spiked or straight up—and an equally DIY-able s’mores spread.
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup cold water
3 packages unflavored gelatin
½ cups fine granulated white sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and line the dish with parchment, making sure there is a couple of inches of parchment hanging over the sides of the dish. Grease the parchment with more cooking spray.
Blend the cornstarch and confectioners’ sugar. Lightly dust the bottom and sides of the greased parchment. Set it all aside.
Pour ½ cup of the cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Sprinkle the gelatin into the cold water. Allow it to dissolve.
In a heavy small sauce pot, add in the corn syrup, sugar, remaining water and salt. Gently stir just to combine. Place over medium heat and cover. Allow the mixture to simmer for 4 minutes, and then remove the lid.
Continue cooking the mixture for another 7 to 8 minutes. If using a candy thermometer, the temperature should read 240 degrees. Immediately remove from heat.
Turn the mixer on low, and with it running slowly, pour the hot mixture into the gelatin.
Once all of the hot syrup has been added, turn the mixer up to high. Beat for 12 to 14 minutes or until the mixture is thick and forms stiff peaks. Add the vanilla in the very last few seconds. Turn off the mixer once the vanilla is completely blended in.
Spray a rubber spatula with nonstick cooking spray and carefully remove the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan. The mixture will be very sticky, so spray a bit more of the cooking spray when needed as you are working to spread the marshmallow out evenly. Dust the top with a little more of the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch mixture. Allow to set for several hours. Slice into marshmallows using a serrated knife, which you can dust with a little powder sugar to prevent from sticking.
SPIKED HOT CHOCOLATE
¾ cups cocoa powder
¾ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
6 cups whole milk
½ cup dark or semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vanilla
Liquor and toppings of your choice
In a heavy saucepan combine the cocoa, sugar and salt together. Pour in the milk. Heat on medium heat.
Stir to make sure the sugar and cocoa have dissolved. Once the milk has started to steam, add in the chocolate chips and continue stirring until the chocolate is melted. Add in the vanilla.
Keep the hot chocolate warm until you are ready to serve. Then, divide the hot chocolate between 6 mugs. To spike, add 1 to 2 ounces of your favorite liquor. Top with homemade marshmallows and chocolate shavings.
This article was originally published in the December 2022 issue of our sister magazine, 225.