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Dark Hot Chocolate with Bourbon Whipped Cream and Homemade Chocolate Marshmallows

Fair warning- this post will contain far too many photos.  I seriously could not decide which ones I wanted to include.  And believe or not, I actually cut some from the pile.  Remember that I said this once you've made your way to the bottom.  Hmmm.  Perhaps I could just put one sentence between each picture.  Make it seem like there's not too many.  We'll see how it goes.
Let's start off by talking about marshmallows.  Not just marshmallows.  Homemade marshmallows.  Not just homemade marshmallows.  Homemade chocolate marshmallows.  Not just homemade chocolate marshmallows.  Homemade chocolate marshmallows shaped like hearts.  Not just......kidding.  They are just homemade heart-shaped chocolate marshmallows!
Heart-Shaped Mini Chocolate Marshmallows
adapted from Saveur #131
makes ~40 heart-shaped (or ~80 square mini-marshmallows)

pan spray, for greasing

1½ c. sugar
¾ c. light corn syrup
¼ c. honey
½ c. water

3 Tbs. unflavored powdered gelatin, softened in  ½ cup cold water

½ c. Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted

¼ c. Dutch-process cocoa, sifted
2 tbsp. cornstarch

Spray a 9" x 9" baking pan, line bottom and sides with parchment paper, and spray paper.

Combine sugar, syrup, honey, and ½ cup water in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer; cook, without stirring, until syrup reaches 250° on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat; let cool to 220°.

Meanwhile, bring some water to a boil in a small saucepan. Place bowl of gelatin dissolved in water over boiling water without touching the bowl to the water; whisk until gelatin becomes liquid. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk; add ½ cup cocoa powder. Add the slightly cooled sugar syrup to gelatin; whisk on high speed until mixture holds stiff peaks, ~5–6 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared pan; smooth top with a rubber spatula that has been sprayed, as well. Let cool until set, ~6 hours.
Combine remaining cocoa powder and cornstarch in a bowl and transfer to a strainer; dust work surface with mixture. Slide a knife around edge of pan to release marshmallows; remove from pan. Dust cocoa mixture over top. Dip a small heart-shaped cutter into the cocoa mixture and cut out individual hearts.  (alternately, use a slicing knife dusted with cocoa mixture, and cut marshmallows into small squares or rectangles for "regular" mini-marshmallows). Toss marshmallows with remaining cocoa mixture.

*for full-size marshmallows, use an 8" x 8" square pan and cut into 1" thick squares
Once you have your marshmallows all laid out in front of you...beware of the call for hot chocolate that will echo through the room.  MmmHmm.  They practically BEG for it!  And since I hate to disappoint, I went ahead and made some Dark Hot Chocolate spiked with a little booze...inside and on top.

Dark Hot Chocolate (boozy or not)
makes 2 large mugs

4 oz. good quality Dark Chocolate
2 c. whole milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
bourbon, optional (not optional for me, but...)

Place chocolate, milk, and vanilla in a heavy-bottomed pan over low heat, whisking pretty constantly until it's all melted and combined.  Pour a shot of bourbon into a waiting mug and top with hot chocolate.
But wait!  We can't stop there.  The rich, dark, hot chocolate then pleads for a big plop of boozy whipped cream.  You know, to melt down into it.  Okay, okay...

Bourbon Whipped Cream
makes ~2 c.

1 c. heavy cream
~2 Tbs. Bourbon
~½ tsp. vanilla

Place the cream and bourbon in a large bowl.  Pour in a little vanilla and some sugar and whip to stiff peaks.
So, now you plop a big old spoonful of the Bourbon Whipped Cream onto the steaming mug of Dark Hot Chocolate...and spoon in a few Heart-Shaped Mini Chocolate Marshmallows.  The marshmallows melt into the hot chocolate with the whipped cream, creating a thickened, chocolaty, boozy mug of dessert (or anytime) bliss!

This is my entry into this month's edition of Dessert Wars ...where the theme is Dark Chocolate and Hearts.  These are the prizes we are playing for:

Also sharing with Warm Desserts event held at Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes and Melt in Your Mouth Monday at Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms.