Hot Cocoa Popsicles

This weekend brought about a furious blizzard, with flakes falling wildly from the heavens and a fierce wind blowing snow into drifts tall enough to bury cars beneath walls of snow. I spent Sunday with a cup of hot tea between my palms, watching Mother Nature roar outside my window. There is a peacefulness in being in the warmth of indoors, safe and snug, while the elements play outside, just out of reach. The world outside quietly shuts down and responsibilities are forgotten as the front door stays closed.

I think sometimes we all need a snow day.

Even though it goes against all reason, on the coldest days of the year I crave frozen treats. Throughout the winter season, it seems there is only so much tea that can be sipped and soup that can be ladled. In order to satisfy my cravings for something cool, I often beg family or friends to accompany me to the nearest frozen yogurt shop. Bundled up in winter jackets, scarves, and over-sized mittens, we trudge through the frosted doors and eat until our insides turn delightfully cold. When the cold ice cream finally brings about a case of the goosebumps, we wrap ourselves back up and head out into the winter air.

Though this small tradition may seem misunderstood, there is something restorative about spending time in an empty yogurt shop on a chilled February evening.

After the blizzard struck (and the obligatory mug of hot tea had been consumed), I found my taste for cold treats begin to seep into my bones. With no choice but to stay in the warmth and safety of the indoors, I decided to create my own winter delight with the food already in my kitchen. A few minutes on the stove is all it takes to whip up a quick cocoa. After I waited for it to cool down, I married it with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips in a popsicle mold to produce a frozen treat that closely mimics its namesake.

While hot cocoa is a winter favorite, I have found that "cold" cocoa can be just as gratifying.

Hot Cocoa Popsicles combine the flavors of the beloved winter drink and turn it into a treat that can be enjoyed whether the weather is warm or cold. A rich hot cocoa is layered in a popsicle mold with mini chocolate chips and marshmallows. The popsicles are frozen in two parts to evenly spread out the mix-ins, which keeps all of the chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom and all of the marshmallows from rising to the top. Once frozen, the popsicles can be enjoyed over the course of a couple weeks, reached for whenever a craving may strike.

One Year Ago: Hot Cocoa Cookies
Two Years Ago: Heart-Shaped Cinnamon Rolls

Hot Cocoa Popsicles

Yields 6 popsicles

1 3/4 cups (415 ml) whole or 2% milk
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Mini marshmallows

In a large saucepan, whisk together the milk, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and remove as soon as the cocoa becomes smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract and cool the mixture to room temperature.

Sprinkle 5-10 mini chocolate chips into the bottom of the popsicle molds. Fill molds half full with the cooled hot cocoa and place in 5-8 mini marshmallows, making sure that each marshmallow touches the hot cocoa. Place in the sticks and freeze for at least 1 hour. Remove from freezer and add another layer of mini chocolate chips, hot cocoa, and mini marshmallows. Freeze for 4-6 hours, or until completely frozen.

Serve chilled.