“Do you want ice cream with caramel sauce or hot chocolate?” I ask Ivy. Her face brightens with the choice. She and I plan to take full advantage of a quiet house and the ice cream that sits idly in the freezer.
“No wait!” I interrupt just as she is ready to answer. “How about we have hot chocolate AND ice cream.” She doesn’t argue.
She scoots the stool over while I reach for a saucepan. Putting herself in charge of the chocolate she sneaks a taste before plunging into the hot milk speckled with floating dots of perfumed vanilla seeds. Cocoa powder, rich and nearly black, follows turning the white milk dark and thick. A scoop of ice cream sits in each bowl as a warm bath of hot chocolate pools around its base. A breeze of peppermint hits my nose, cooling and crisp, and immediately the ice cream puddles at the edges.
Her little hands wrap around the bowl smiling at what she sees. I notice her fingers; more slender than last year with chipped hot pink sparkly polish on her nails. Our legs weave together on the couch, a Christmas movie plays in the background as we give full attention to our dessert; warm and cold and appropriately indulgent.
This is the sort of scene I’ve longed for as the last several weeks were filled with deadlines and what I now describe as noise – too loud for me to notice the simple joys like this. Our December has been set aside for quiet – an intentional move during a season that tries desperately to threaten quiet and contentment. Books are being read, candles scented of Bergamot are lit, the tree stands tall in the corner with the lights beaming continuously. We will find snow, we will bake cookies, write notes, drive around oohhing and ahhing at our neighbor’s Christmas lights and warm ourselves with cup after cup of hot chocolate. Closets are purged of their unnecessary clutter and toys are being reexamined and donated. We’re finding joy in a simple sheet of white paper and a sharp pencil, some chalk and a giant game of tic tac toe in the driveway and watching icicles shatter into tiny pieces as it bears the brunt of a kung-fu chop.
There’s reality too, like a sick boy sitting next to me home from school, three-year-old tantrums about forgotten stuffed kitties, dishes that don’t clean themselves, email that needs someone to respond to and comments that threaten steal the joy of creating – it’s noise, it’s life but right now I’m working valiantly to find the quiet. It’s good to be here, in this space – imperfect and comfortable, warming and quiet. Thanks for being here and for your patience when it was a bit too quiet around here. Stay tuned for Toddy’s and cinnamon-swirled rolls, sweet and cardamom spiced. For now, hot chocolate AND ice cream.
Peppermint Hot Chocolate Affogato
Serves 8 to 10 (affogato-size portions)
2 cups milk
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
few drops peppermint extract
In a small saucepan over medium heat bring the milk to a gentle boil. Whisk together the cocoa powder and sugar in a small bowl.
Remove the saucepan from the heat then whisk in the cocoa powder mixture along with the chocolate, salt and peppermint extract or oil to taste.
Strain hot chocolate if any little lumps remain.
Hot chocolate will keep, covered and refrigerated, for two weeks.
Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to a small bowl or mug. Pour 1/4 cup of warm hot chocolate over the ice cream then finish with crumbs of candy cane.