Some days you just know you shouldn’t be trying to experiment in the kitchen.
But you do it anyway. Because you have issues.
We’re having a snow day in greater Boston today so instead of working on my resume and applying for jobs I’m daydreaming and reading about hiking and backpacking and camping. I’ve been meaning for a while to work on some trailworthy hot chocolate and instant coffee mixes. Even though I knew I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind to be experimenting in the kitchen I headed in anyway. I figured I’d limit myself to hot cocoa mix… keep things low-key… minimize the risk of disaster.
Coffee fiends that we are, the boyfriend and I started off last year’s backpacking season carrying organic instant coffee (surprisingly drinkable! and I like the linked brand a lot better than Starbucks Via.), powdered soy milk, and turbinado sugar. This worked out OK, though the soy powder never really fully dissolves — it stays a touch gritty. After some trial and error we found that for whatever mysterious reasons this combination works better with cold water than with hot. If you have a water bottle that seals tightly you can shake the bejeezus out of it and it mixes as well as it’s ever going to. And it tastes better than when it’s made with hot water. Go figure.
When we ran out of powdered soy we switched to powdered coconut milk. BTW — if you’re dairy-free be very careful of powdered coconut milk — most brands contain casein to prevent clumping. Native Forest is the only vegan brand I have found. Powdered coconut milk is great because it has a pretty high fat — aka ENERGY — content, is just a little bit sweet, and, well, it tastes like coconut! I am a sucker for just about anything made of coconut. Being casein-free, the NF coconut powder is a bit lumpy and clumpy, so it really only works well in hot water. But it doesn’t stay gritty like the soy. So, pros and cons. I really prefer coconut to soy, though, for crazy conspiracy theory and flavor reasons.
So today I thought I’d make some hot cocoa mix with powdered coconut milk. What could possibly go wrong? I threw some in my Vitamix (aka Greased Lightning) along with cocoa powder, sugar, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon. I wanted a powder in which the ingredients were finely ground and fully incorporated so they’d dissolve well in water.
Fully aware of the fat (and moisture) content of the coconut powder, as well as the power of the Vitamix, I’m not sure why I expected to end up with a light, fluffy, powdery instant hot cocoa mix. Instead I got something that looked like it should be buried in a cathole. I mean a lovely, rich, thick hot chocolate paste/concentrate. Or a delightful toast topping (the boyfriend’s idea). It turns out that when you put powdered coconut milk into a high-speed blender you get coconut butter. Valuable knowledge for the future but not what I was going for today. I’m not sharing a picture with you for what should be obvious reasons. But I am sharing a picture of the hot chocolate even though it looks like every cup of hot chocolate you’ve ever consumed. Don’t get me wrong — it’s really good hot chocolate. It’s just not going to be very convenient on the trail.
Next time I’ll try it with powdered soy. It shouldn’t turn to paste in the blender but should get ground finely enough to not be so gritty. Or maybe I’ll try the food processor instead of the blender. I’m also planning on trying a “cappuccino” mix — something we can just throw into some hot water instead of carrying coffee, sugar, and creamer as separate components. I’ll let you know how that all turns out.