If you've yet to discover the joys of a Hot Chocolate Station, then fear not we have everything you need to know about what they are and how to create your very own Hot Chocolate Station at home.
Hot Chocolate Stations, or Hot Chocolate Bars, as they are sometimes known, simply describes an area that is wholly dedicated to creating your dream hot chocolate at home.
They can be super simple, consisting of just a few jars of ingredients for toppings in a crate or tray on your kitchen worktop, or you could go all out with bespoke labels on decorated jars placed on a buffet or side table.
And, with the rules now being relaxed to allow entertaining in private gardens, now is an ideal time to set one up in the garden ready for your friends and family to indulge outdoors, once the temperatures begin to drop in the afternoon / early evenings.
Ingredients for your Hot Chocolate Station is really down to personal taste, and is likely to vary season to season, but as a general rule of thumb every Hot Chocolate Station ought to have a selection of the following:
Again, this is likely to vary depending on the season, but with more people now socialising in their gardens, you could go for a cosy, comfort theme.
For outdoor Hot Chocolate Stations, look for containers that can be used outside and have a lid or items that are individually wrapped to ensure you keep any insects or bugs at bay.
Keep a flask of hot milk on standby so that your guests can top up whenever they wish.
Lay the hot chocolate station out on a gingham blanket / tea towel to give it a picnic feel and provide some blankets in similar accent colours to complement the station and keep your guests feeling warm.
If you have the budget, you could always introduce some co-ordinating paper napkins to help tie the theme together.
Wicker or straw baskets and wooden crates help to create a synergy with being outdoors, so are perfect for displaying your Hot Chocolate Station in the garden.
Finally, do not forget to consider the size of your mugs. When it comes to Hot Chocolate, for me there is nothing better than sitting with what I would call a 'huggable sized' mug.
There is just something warming about sitting outdoors, round the firepit or patio heater, under a blanket with a mug that needs both hands to hold it.
So, what is the difference between using Cocoa and Hot Chocolate Sticks or Hot Chocolate Bombes, when it comes to creating the perfect hot chocolate?
Powdered Cocoa has a naturally bitter taste as it is created from dried and crushed cocoa nibs that has already had the majority of the cocoa butter removed, meanwhile Hot Chocolate Sticks and Bombes are made using finished, tempered chocolate.
From a taste perspective, this means that hot chocolate created using Hot Chocolate Stirrers and Bombes will usually produce a richer and creamier flavour, which is often more satisfying and will feel more indulgent.
As Hot Chocolate Bombes and Stirrers grow in popularity, so does the availability of these products from discount stores, but how can you be sure that you are getting the best quality of chocolate available?
The key here is to check the cocoa quantity on the ingredients list. In particular, you need to look out for the percentage of cocoa solids and milk solids. In order for milk chocolate to be identified as such, here in the UK, it must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa solids alongside a minimum of 20% milk solids.
Handmade with real Belgian Milk Chocolate, the quantities for most of our Hot Chocolate Sticks and Bombes are 33.6% cocoa solids and 20.8% milk solids.
Meanwhile, our Dark Hot Chocolate Stirrers carry a cocoa quantity of 70% cocoa solids. This ensures that ultimately, you will end up with a smooth and luxurious tasting hot chocolate whatever your dietary needs.
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