With snow blanketing the ground, the only thing left to do to complete the winter wonderland experience is to make a big mug of hot chocolate and curl up next to the fire. It’s a decadent treat, especially when it’s a homemade hot chocolate recipe, paired with the ultra fluffy and fragrant peppermint marshmallows from Very Prairie.
Susan Dietrich of Very Prairie, a local Minneapolis artisan food company, is downright giggly as she talks about her love of food. Beginning her career as a graphic designer, she followed her taste buds, resulting in a career change to a pastry chef. Four years ago she formed Very Prairie, a company she describes as focusing on specialty pantry items. Her line of foods ranges from pasta to graham crackers to granola.
When speaking of local artisan foods, Dietrich is emphatic to point out that saying something is “local, doesn’t mean it’s good.” To make her products good, she uses only locally sourced ingredients and, when not available, she chooses the organic option. Dietrich describes her products as “ingredient driven,” then illustrates this point by speaking of the stone ground local grain that she uses, which took months working with a local supplier to get right. Her dedication to quality is evident.
Very Prairie products aren’t, however, easy to find. Marshmallows are currently sold at the new Sugar Sugar candy store in South Minneapolis and next week will be on the shelves at Nature’s Harvest, a flower shop in Wayzata. Dietrich hopes to expand to other local food stores and will also return to the Mill City Farmers Market in the summer.
Despite the effort, the hunt for peppermint marshmallows pays off. Sure, hot chocolate is good… excellent, actually, but the fluffy marshmallows thick with peppermint are the true stars of the show as they slowly melt into the bittersweet beverage.
Very Rich Hot Chocolate
A Year in Chocolate by Alice Medrich
3 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces*
¾ c boiling water
¾ c milk
Place the chocolate in a small saucepan. Pour a little of the boiling water over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted. Add the rest of the boiling water and the milk. Heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until it is hot but not boiling. For the best flavor and texture, avoid exceeding 180°F. Serve immediately or set aside and reheat gently before serving.
*For our decadent version, we used Guittard bittersweet chocolate chips found in bulk at The Wedge.
Where is the best place in town to get a great hot chocolate?
These look very yummy. One thing I’d like from someone who tries for organic and high quality……..an alternative to the artificial red dye that is in the candy canes she is using. Last year the Wedge coop had all natural candy canes with beet coloring or something similar. And they weren’t sweetened with corn syrup.
Moe – I had a fantastic cup of hot chocolate from Godiva (2nd floor IDS) before the Holidazzle parade. Pricey ($3.50/cup), yes – but downright delicious. I suspect that Caribou’s new hot chocolate using Guittard chocolate is good as well, although I haven’t tried it.
Artsy – In speaking with Susan of Very Prairie, she did indicate that she is seeking an alternative to this dye. Hopefully that will come soon.
Must protest at using water in hot chocolate. I worked at L.A. Burdicks in Cambridge, MA a long time ago. It wasn’t a coffee shop, but a hot chocolate shop. We steamed milk with chopped white, milk, or dark chocolate made locally & it was heaven in a glass.
I have some in my cupboard right now & a special bottle of Castle Rock Cream Line whole milk to use with it. Water won’t be near my stove when I diligently stand above the pot whisking the milk to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
I love the hot cocoa at http://www.kopplinscoffee.com/ in St. Paul. I’m pretty sure they use Rogue Chocolatier’s cocoa in it — super rich chocolate, not too sweet. They also carry pastries from Rustica Bakery, so it is an all-around treat.
Katie, your cocoa looks soooo delicious.
@iBurt We stopped in at L.A. Burdicks a few years ago while in Boston. Best Hot Chocolate I’ve ever had. That’s exactly the type of place I want in MN.
I’ll have to try Kopplins and Godiva soon though.
iBurt, ah, Burdicks! One of the best things about living in Cambridge. That, and Portuguese / Brazilian food everywhere. Burdicks hot chocolate = The Real Deal.
Yes, Moe & James. Am glad they’re becoming more well known. When I lived in Boston I worked there just ONE night a week…solely to get free hot chocolate the rest of the week. Definitely in my top 5 best career moves of the last decade.
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