January—the black hole of winter. The holidays are over, and spring seems so far away. What can you do to cheer up these long, cold evenings? How about inviting a few friends over for a S’mores party! Everyone can gather around the fire and enjoy a chocolaty, gooey treat.
Of course, common sense would dictate that the fun takes place inside around a fireplace. But why not outside? Sure, there’s snow everywhere, and it’s cold. But a fire can keep everyone warm and cheery, and make the evening an adventure! Ghost stories, anyone?
Place hay bales around the fire for easy seating, or bring out the summer chairs! Remind all those you invite to wear their winter outdoor gear and bring a warm blanket or a sleeping bag. Then fill some big baskets with extra throws, blankets, gloves, mittens, and hats for guests to use if they forgot their own.
Once the fire is going, it’s time for s’mores. Set up a bar with all the traditional fixings of milk chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallows, as well as some non-traditional selections, such as peanut butter cups, sliced strawberries, and raspberry jam. Be sure to have plenty of long roasting forks or sticks ready.
S’mores Bar Necessities:
- Graham crackers – regular, cinnamon, and chocolate
- Chocolate-covered graham cracker cookie squares
- Chocolate bars in milk, dark, mint, and cookies ’n crème flavors
- Caramel chocolate bars
- Sliced strawberries
- Peanut butter
- Chocolate hazelnut spread
- Raspberry jam
- Sticks or long marshmallow-roasting forks
And don’t forget the hot chocolate! You can offer ways for guests to dress up their beverage, such as crushed peppermint candies, whipped cream, marshmallows, or chocolate shavings. A little malt will give the drink a malted milk ball taste. If you have an espresso machine, a little-steamed milk will add to the richness. And for grown-ups, a dash of liquor would be a nice twist—Kahlua, Frangelico, Amaretto, or Bailey’s Irish Cream work well.
Here are a couple of hot chocolate recipes you can make for your guests. When it’s hot, pour the mixture into a thermos to keep it hot out in the snow.
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla
In a heavy saucepan, whisk milk, cream, and sugar together over medium heat until mixture begins to simmer. Reduce the heat and add the cocoa powder and chocolate. Whisk until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
6 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 squares (3 oz) baking chocolate, chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
Whipped cream, to serve
1. Combine one cup of milk, the sugar, chocolate, and cinnamon in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the chocolate is melted.
2. Gradually stir in the remaining 5 cups of milk. Cook, stirring until the milk is very hot. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Gradually stir 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the eggs, then transfer the entire mixture to a saucepan. Cook and stir for 2 minutes over low heat.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Beat with a hand beater until very frothy. Pour the hot chocolate into mugs, add a dollop of whipped cream to each, and serve.