A Hot Chocolate to Skate With

The Christmas season lulled us into an artificial sense of winter cheerfulness what with its sparkly lights that brighten those initial dark winter nights. But with the cold, harsh reality of New Years Day, it’s now clear that really, what we’re left with when Christmas is all packed back away, is that it’s January. It’s a long cold winter month without Christmas lights, office parties, cookies or trifle.

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A lot of us stuck in this horrendous situation, with winter heavily bearing down, go into a stage of denial, telling ourselves that we can find fun winter activities to keep us busy until spring. At the top of this “winter fun” list is ice skating.

Woman pouring hot chocolate from vacuum flask
Though I don’t especially like ice skating, like most situations I can be coerced if there’s food involved.

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Besides, when I tell myself I want to go skating, what I’m really saying is I want to go to the pub after skating. A nice dark pub with a fireplace, where I can drink a porter or stout, something that’s black like motor oil, accompanied by another something, heavy with fried cheese. I also love the idea of bringing a flask to the rink, to repel the cold and make the activity a bit more entertaining but I don’t think it’s such a great idea to impair my motor skills in any way when I’m on the ice. When it comes to rink snacks, I think it’s fair to stick with simple hot chocolate and whatever fried thing they’re selling nearby. In our case, the french fries were the best option.

Woman pouring hot chocolate from vacuum flask
The hot chocolate is easy to put together and so much better than whatever the nearest vending machines are turning out. When I was coming up with this hot chocolate, I essentially started doing what I thought Nigella Lawson might do and as such I’ve ended up with a few British ingredients in my recipe. Nigella knows her chocolate desserts. She has full respect for chocolate and I find that many of her chocolate recipes are reminiscent of biting into a bar of pure chocolate. That’s the reason for both the dark chocolate and cocoa powder as they both provide their own special depth to this drink.

Woman pouring hot chocolate from vacuum flask
The bourbon-soaked vanilla bean is completely optional. Whenever I use a vanilla bean I add it to a jar that’s been filled with bourbon, a bit like feeding a homemade vanilla extract. The flavour of bourbon is so welcome in my baking that I thought I’d enjoy a vanilla extract with it as its base. The bourbon, of course is strong and competes with the vanilla so it’s not a pure vanilla extract though it is a satisfying ingredient to have on hand. At any rate, recycling one of these bourbon-soaked beans to infuse into this hot chocolate only makes sense to me if you happen to have it on hand. Otherwise you could add in a teaspoon of vanilla extract or simply leave the vanilla out all together.

Woman pouring hot chocolate from vacuum flask

Hot Chocolate

Makes enough to fill a 750ml thermos

150g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 bourbon-soaked vanilla bean (optional)
500ml whole milk (3.25% M.F.)
2 tablespoons Lyle’s Golden Syrup
Fat pinch of Maldon salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk over medium-low heat until silky smooth. Decant into mugs or a thermos.

Woman pouring hot chocolate from vacuum flask
Thank you Sarah Wright for being our favourite Crustcrumbs model and recipe influencer.

Vanilla and Sortilège Milkshake

Milkshake in Bed

While sick people food can be delicious (see chicken skin and whisky), most of the time it’s not. It’s got to be bland, light and often dairy-free to avoid upset stomachs. Consequences be damned. This is the milkshake to have when life is making you queasy.

Milkshake in Bed

Sortilège is a sweet Canadian liqueur made from whisky and maple syrup. I use it a lot in fall and winter cocktails – its sweetness is excellent for replacing the sweet vermouth in Manhattans made with a spicy bourbon such as Bulleit. It’s also wonderful for sipping straight – it’s syrupy-sweetness coats the glass and your throat – a very good thing to have while ice-skating on a pond somewhere in Québec, ideally next to a sugar shack, which is how I like to imagine this spirit came to be.

Milkshake in Bed

Vanilla and Sortilège Milkshake

makes 1 milkshake
250ml good-quality, store bought vanilla ice cream
150ml whole milk (3.5 % M.F.)
250ml whipping cream (35% M.F.)
6 tablespoons Sortilège

I like to make this right in the glass, using an immersion blender but you could use a milkshake machine if you have one or a regular blender. First, using a mixer, whip the cream until just starting to hold its shape, then add the Sortilège and continue to whip until firm. Because there’s quite a lot of liqueur in proportion to the cream, you can expect a fairly loose whipped cream. Next in a tall glass add the ice cream and the milk and blend until fully mixed. Top generously with the whipped cream.

Milkshake in Bed