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Quick Valentine's Day Treat: Hot Chocolate Spoons

Hot chocolate on a spoon. Really. You make these in a few minutes and share them for a fast, festive, and tasty Valentine's Day treat. I first encountered these hot chocolate spoons in a cafe in Amsterdam's Centraal Station. The hot chocolate spoons made the long wait for our train--we had already checked out of our hotel and trekked with our luggage to the station in the dark and pouring rain--more than worthwhile. The hot chocolate spoons are simple. They consist of big hunks of really great dark chocolate solidified at the end of a spoon. Some of the chocolate hunks are flavored and embellished--think hazelnut, coconut, rum, cognac, vanilla, and cinnamon and marshmallows and sprinkles--and the object is to add the chocolate spoons to hot milk to make real, rich, voluptuous hot chocolate that's a far cry from packaged "Swiss Miss" hot cocoa. Unfortunately the chocolate spoons in Amsterdam were pretty pricey--the equivalent of about five dollars or more each. So I shared a cup of hot chocolate with my husband (okay, I drank the most, because he was nice and let me). And while I was waiting for our train, I figured out how to make the chocolate spoons. You won't have to share if you make these. The recipe makes a nice-sized batch--enough for you and others to enjoy. But sharing your cup of hot chocolate with your significant someone would be a sign of love.

To make the hot chocolate spoons, you'll obviously need spoons, and you also will need little plastic cups (an ice cube tray doesn't work very well--I tried it, but yes, you can use popsicle sticks instead of the spoons, if you'd prefer). I get both the spoons and cups at the dollar store, which is far less expensive than the grocery store or Michael's. The quality of the chocolate you use also is important. The better the chocolate, the better your hot chocolate. That said, you don't have to get the fancy stuff from Williams Sonoma. I use Trader Joe's giant chocolate bars (17 ounces) and break off what I need. Chocolate chips will work, but they have stabilizers in them and don't melt as well or taste quite as good as the bar chocolate.

Hot Chocolate Spoons -- Makes 12-18

8 ounces of dark bar chocolate

3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder

6-8 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla (optional)

1/8 teaspoon of salt (optional)

Small spoons

Small plastic shot cups

Nuts, sprinkles, colored sugar, marshmallows (optional)

Coat the inside of the shot cups with a little non-stick cooking spray or coat them with butter, if you'd prefer. Add a few marshmallows to the bottom of the cups, if you feel so inclined. In a large measuring cup or bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave on 50 percent power, stirring it every 30 seconds or so until it's liquid. Stir in the cocoa powder, confectioner's sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla and salt, if you're using them. Using a teaspoon, spoon the mixture (it will be thick and sort of messy) into the prepared cups and let it partially set. Stick a spoon in each cup and refrigerate the cups until they harden up (or just set them aside at room temperature, but the hardening process will take a little longer). You can sprinkle on some nuts, sprinkles, marshmallows, or chocolate chips when you add the spoons, pressing the additions down into the chocolate. When you're ready to make hot chocolate, heat 6-8 ounces of milk until very hot (in the microwave is fine), remove the chocolate from its plastic cup, and add the chocolate with its spoon to the hot milk. Let the chocolate spoon sit in the hot milk for a minute or two and then stir, mixing the chocolate into the milk. UMMM!

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