Hot Chocolate Dippers

I made these as little extra Christmas presents & they went down really well - they're a perfect gift because they look pretty, taste fabulous & they're really easy too! I'm case you haven't come across these before, the basic idea is a piece of scrummy chocolate on a stick that you swirl through hot milk until it melts, creating delicious creamy hot chocolate. You can add loads of different flavours - I went for plain milk chocolate and white chocolate with peppermint, but you could also try grating in a little orange zest.

About 20g of chocolate per dipper
Flavourings - to make the white chocolate & peppermint ones, I used peppermint essence

You'll also need wooden lolly sticks (you can usually buy them in craft shops) and a flexible silicon ice-cube tray - this is important because it makes it much easier to get the chocolate out once it sets.

Although these dippers are really simple, you do need to temper the chocolate, so that it sets nicely, & doesn't 'bloom' - this is when white patches appear on the chocolate. It's not harmful (it's just to do with the cocoa butter in the chocolate) but it does look a bit unappetising.

You can temper chocolate the technical way, with a digital thermometer, but I find this cheat's method works just fine. Melt the chocolate in the microwave - give it short blasts of no more than 20 seconds and stir in between. You need to keep an eye on it because the idea is to stop when there are a few lumps still left unmelted. At this point, take the bowl out and stir until the remaining lumps have been melted by the heat of the rest, and the chocolate has cooled a little. 

Test whether or not the chocolate is tempered by drizzling a little bit onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and popping it into the fridge for 90 seconds. When you take it out, if it's tempered, it will have set slightly and the surface will be matt rather than shiny. If not, add a couple more lumps of unmelted chocolate to the mixture and stir until they melt, then repeat the fridge test. If in doubt, keep going until you're sure. The idea is that there are 'seed crystals' in the unmelted chocolate that help the rest of it to set in the correct way, so that it doesn't just keep melting whenever it's out of the fridge. You should be able to keep the final product at room temperature, as long as it's wrapped up.

When you think the chocolate has got to the right stage, add any flavourings, then, using a small spoon, carefully fill up the flexible ice-cube tray. Leave the chocolate somewhere cool (I just put it on the windowsill on a chilly day) until it's started to set, then carefully poke the wooden sticks in - if you leave it for a bit, the chocolate should be thick enough for them to stand up, as long as you don't knock the tray. When the chocolate has completely set, gently ease the dippers out of the tray. Wrap in small pieces of greaseproof paper and secure with a tie or a rubber band, and pop in a cellophane bag (chocolate picks up odours really easily, so it's best to put the dippers in something reasonably airtight).

To serve, stir through a cup of hot milk until melted. If you're giving these as presents, you could also package them up with marshmallows (you could even make your own marshmallows!) and a can of whipped cream, for a really indulgent treat. I also wrote the flavours on the lolly stick with pencil - it's best not to use anything else as it might come off in the milk when you make it!