Cacao Hot Chocolate

Like so many of us do, I hibernate when the weather grows cold. I find reasons to stay inside, snuggled underneath heavy blankets, bathed in the soft glow of the television. This time of year is quiet; a waiting period between seasons. Comfort  is found in simple things—baking cookies to warm the apartment, and reading a good book before bed.

Isolated in our homes, we keep warm, dormant and sedate, until the white of winter fades.

My sister brought me back a package of cacao powder when she was in the Dominican Republic. After being served an incredible hot chocolate brewed from it, she knew I would find my own uses for it. I originally discovered  cacao several years ago while looking for dairy-free chocolate alternatives. Cacao is a raw, less processed form of chocolate; it is the ingredient from which chocolate and cocoa powder originate. Cacao is perhaps known most famously as the drink of the Aztecs. While the Aztec drink was medicinal in nature—bitter, and tremendously spicy —the version I have concocted for you is much more tame.

Brewed into almond milk, spiced with cinnamon, and sweetened with maple syrup, the cacao transforms into a dark chocolate drink that suits these cold winter evenings.


Cacao Hot Chocolate is a variation on the traditional hot chocolate. Cacao powder is brewed in warm milk and blended until uniform. With additions of cinnamon and maple syrup, the bitterness of the cacao fades and is replaced by a deep, dark chocolate flavor. Serve with whipped cream or marshmallows when the snow flies.

Cacao powder can be found in most health food stores and online.

One Year Ago: Cranberry Orange Muffins
Two Years Ago: Double Chocolate Brownies
Three Years Ago: Rosemary Sandwich Bread and Cranberry Flaxseed Muffins
Four Years Ago: Cinnamon Sugar Cake, Vanilla Bean Pudding, and Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Five Years Ago: Chocolate Marbled Banana Bread, Cherry Chocolate Oat Cookies, and Cranberry Wine Spritzer

Cacao Hot Chocolate

Yields 2 servings

2 cups (475 mL) almond milk (or milk of choice)
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons maple syrup
Coconut Whipped Cream (optional)

In a saucepan, whisk together all ingredients and heat over medium-high heat until hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat and transfer to a blender. Carefully blend for several seconds until uniform. Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove any remaining solids.

Divide evenly between two mugs and top with coconut whipped cream.

Coconut Matcha Chia Pudding

A new year has dawned, carrying with it optimistic aspirations and a hopeful outlook. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I can breathe. The future carries a rosy tint; the months ahead no longer feel so heavy and intimidating. As a third year teacher, I am finally in a place where I no longer need to spend each evening lesson planning and writing exams. After the past several years of spending what feels like all my time and energy trying to stay afloat, this change feels as if an enormous burden has been lifted off my shoulders.

My time is finally, finally becoming my own.

Heading into this year, I intend to work on a work-life balance. After so many years of the scale tipping heavily in the work direction, I allowed life to take precedence the past few months. I was greedy with my personal time, devouring books and television shows by the series, relishing being unplugged in the evenings. The freedom was seductive. I faded from here during those months, certain you'd be able to forgive the brief absences once I could reason them.

The work-life balance will need continual adjustments, but with one heavy weight removed, it feels possible for the scale to even out.

Among wishes of a dedicated exercise routine and not leaving dishes in the sink to "soak," eating more greens often nears the top of my resolution list. With the color spot on, I believe that this matcha pudding also qualifies as a green. After delighting in the pairing of green tea and coconut in this iced latte, it was time to bring the flavors together again in another form. The pudding itself uses only a bowl and whisk, making it nearly effortless to bring together.

Go ahead, eat more "greens."


Coconut Matcha Chia Pudding is simple to make and visually striking. The matcha pudding is thickened with chia seeds and topped with a coconut whipped cream mixed with shredded coconut. The sweet, creamy nature of the coconut contrasts well against the earthy flavor of the green tea. The pudding and whipped cream balance each other beautifullyone should not be served without the other.

Matcha is powdered green tea and can be found at most tea shops and health food stores.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Sugar Cookies and Coconut Almond Quinoa
Two Years Ago: Almond Date Banana Smoothie 
Three Years Ago: Chocolate (DF) Ice Cream, Peanut Butter Banana OatmealRaspberry White Chocolate Scones, and Lemon Poppy Seed Rolls
Four Years Ago: Candy Cane Popcorn, Chocolate Clementine CupcakesPeppermint Hot Chocolate, Green Tea Coconut Ice Cream, Chocolate Lavender Cupcakes, and Sugar Cookies
Five Years Ago: Gingerbread Cheesecake, Peppermint Ice Cream, Banana Muffins, Vanilla Pear MilkSalted Caramels, and Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies

Coconut Matcha Chia Pudding

Yields four 1/2-cup servings

14.5 ounces (1 can or 428 mL) canned coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons matcha powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (to taste)
1/4 cup (50 grams) chia seeds
1 recipe Coconut Whipped Cream
1/3 cup (30 grams) shredded coconut

In a food processor or blender, blend together the canned coconut milk, matcha powder, vanilla, and maple syrup. Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in chia seeds. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. Then whisk the pudding once and return it to the refrigerator to set overnight.

 Before serving, stir shredded coconut into coconut whipped cream. Set aside.

Divide pudding evenly between serving containers. Top with a generous amount of whipped cream and serve.

Swedish Tea Ring

Starting the morning with sweet rolls warm from the oven makes the holiday season feel more special. Whether on Christmas morning, after the stockings have been opened, or to recover from a late evening on New Year's Eve, the smell of yeast creates sweet memories. In years past, I have made chocolate hazelnut rollsalmond cardamom rolls, and cinnamon sugar swirl bread. This year I have been testing out the Swedish Tea Ring, a sweet bread similar to a cinnamon roll, but in a shape that is better suited for sharing.

In partnership with King Arthur Flour, each month I want to challenge you with a new recipe, filled with step-by-step explanations and techniques, to help you grow and develop as a baker. This month we're tackling sweet yeasted dough. Just as coffee cakes are meant to be served alongside a cup of coffee, the Swedish Tea Ring is meant to be served with a mug of hot tea. Swedish Tea Rings come in a variety of forms, some with fresh fruit and some with dried fruit, but the most common ingredient is finely chopped nuts. 

This dough combines a mixture of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. Whole wheat flour is a healthier alternative to white flour and has a nutty undertone, which complements the almonds in the recipe. Sweet dough has higher levels of fat, sugar, and egg than traditional dough, which keeps the bread soft and tender after baking. This recipe uses milk and butter to retain moisture in the final product. The dough is also spiced with ground cardamom to give it additional warmth in flavor.

After the dough is mixed together, it must be kneaded to develop gluten before rising. (1) To begin kneading, bring the dough into a ball shape on a lightly floured surface. (2) Using the heel of your hand, push the dough downwards at an angle to stretch it away from you. (3) Rotate the dough 90 degrees. (4) Fold it in half and repeat, beginning with step 2. As the dough is kneaded, you will be able to feel the dough firm up as the gluten forms. As the texture of the dough changes, the dough will also require less flour and may be easier to knead on a flour-less surface. If too much flour is incorporated into the dough, it will become stiff and difficult to work with; take care not to sprinkle too much flour on the surface. 

After 7-10 minutes of kneading by hand, the dough will begin to feel elastic and spring back under your touch. I prefer to knead by hand to feel the texture of the dough change (and for the personal relaxation that comes from repetitive motion), but directions for kneading by machine are included in the recipe below. Place in a bowl, cover, and allow to rise for 1-2 hours.

The filling contains a mixture of butter, cinnamon, and demerara sugar. Demerara sugar is a partially unrefined, raw sugar. It has larger crystals than brown sugar, but a similar caramel and molasses flavor profile. If you do not have demerara sugar on hand, brown sugar can be used as an alternative. 

After the dough has risen, roll it out into a 12 x 18-inch rectangle. Take care not to use too much flour on your work surface or the dough will be more difficult to roll out. It is best if it lightly sticks to the surface because the dough will better hold its shape. Evenly coat the dough with the brown sugar mixture and sprinkle on a layer of finely chopped almonds. In the photograph below, the almonds are uneven in sizetry to avoid this. The filling retains a better texture when the nuts are chopped small and evenly sized.

From the long edge, the dough is tightly rolled into a log and placed seam side down onto a baking sheet. The ends are cut off the dough and the exposed ends are brought together to create a circular, ring shape. Pinch the ends together to seal. Using a kitchen shears, cut the log two-thirds of the way through in two-inch thick segments around the circle. Carefully turn the segments upwards so the interior of the dough is exposed. Cover and allow to rise a second time for 30-45 minutes.

Brush the exterior of the dough with egg wash and sprinkle on additional demerara sugar before baking. The egg wash helps the dough brown to a deep golden color in the oven. The large grains of the demerara sugar keep their shape in the oven, adding a unique look and texture to the final product. Large white crystal sugar can also be used, but avoid granulated or brown sugar because it will melt in the oven and you will not be able to achieve the same look. 

To begin your weekend or holiday morning with a warm slice, the Swedish Tea Ring can be assembled the night before and baked the next morning. The evening before, prepare the dough and arrange it to form the final shape. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, preheat the oven and set out the dough to warm and rise for the second time for 45-60 minutes. Brush on the egg white and sprinkle with demerara sugar just before baking.

The Swedish Tea Ring brings together the warm winter spices of cinnamon and cardamom in a sweet, buttery bread. The ring is filled with demerara sugar to bring out caramel tones and finely chopped almonds for their nutty flavor and texture. The shape of the sweet bread makes it easy to cut and share with the people you hold near and dear.

One Year Ago: Almond Espresso Cookies
Two Years Ago: Cranberry Upside Down Cake and Peppermint Marshmallows
Three Years Ago: Lemon Cranberry Scones, Chocolate Pomegranate TartAlmond Cardamom RollsRed Wine Chocolate Truffles, and Gingerbread Cookies
Four Years Ago: Pumpkin Panna Cotta, Honey CookiesPeppermint Pinwheels, and Sugar Cookies
Five Years Ago: Blueberry Brownies, White Chocolate Saffron Truffles, Pear ChipsCandy Striped Meringues, and Chocolate Truffles

Swedish Tea Ring

Yields 14-18 servings

2/3 cup (155 mL) milk, lukewarm in temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
4 tablespoons (56 grams) butter, melted
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups (240 grams) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (128 grams) King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons (56 grams) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (110 grams) demerara sugar, plus extra for sprinkling*
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
4 ounces (115 grams) almonds, finely chopped
Egg wash (1 large egg + 1 tablespoon water, whisked)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the lukewarm milk, sugar, egg, melted butter, and yeast. Using a bowl scraper, fold in the flours, cardamom, and salt until the dough comes together and appears uniform. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. If using a stand mixer, knead the dough on low for 3-5 minutes with the dough hook attachment, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. 

Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and allow the dough to rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 to 2 hours.

To make the filling, mix together the butter, sugar, and cinnamon until it forms uniform paste. 

When the dough has doubled in volume, punch down the dough and, on a lightly floured surface, flatten the dough into a rectangular shape. Roll out the dough to a 12-by-18 inch rectangle. Using an offset spatula, spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around all edges. Sprinkle on the finely chopped almonds evenly and press the almonds down lightly into the filling.

From the long end, roll the dough tightly into a log and place seam side down. Cut off the ends so the log appears uniform. Form the log into a ring shape and pinch the open ends together. Using a kitchen shears, cut the dough 2/3 of the way into the log into 2-inch segments. Carefully turn the segments upwards so the interior of the dough is exposed. Cover and let rise for an additional 30-45 minutes. 

While dough is rising, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Brush with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with additional demerara sugar. Bake the tea ring for 25 minutes, or until golden. If it browns too quickly, cover with aluminum foil to prevent browning during the last 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

This post is sponsored through a partnership with King Arthur Flour. All thoughts and opinions are my own.