Hot chocolate vs. hot cocoa stirs debate

News-DemocratMarch 3, 2014 

Q. In restaurants they serve hot chocolate, but at home we make hot cocoa. Is there any real difference? Also, whatever happened to Bosco, that chocolate syrup I enjoyed as a kid?

-- S.F., of Belleville

A. While ice pellets plinked off my gutters Sunday, I decided to enjoy my research with a hot mug of Swiss Miss. And with it, I found not only welcome refreshment, but the answer to your question as well.

On the box it says "Hot Chocolate Flavor" (with "flavor" in much smaller letters). Near the bottom of the front panel it says in type that's a little harder to see against the Swiss Alps, "Hot Cocoa Mix." Therein lies your difference.

Cocoa is made by grinding roasted cocoa beans into a thick paste, squeezing out the excess cocoa butter and then pulverizing what is left into a powder. When you add this powder (plus sweeteners and flavorings) to milk, you get hot cocoa. Some cocoas even add alkaline salts to the powder so that it better mixes with liquids. (Don't you just hate it when that powdered crud keeps floating to the top of your cup?) This is called Dutched or Dutch-processed cocoa, patented by Coenraad Van Houten in the Netherlands way back in 1828.

On the other hand, true hot chocolate is made with actual chocolate, whether shaved, ground or made into small balls or tablets and then melted in hot liquid. It contains far more cocoa butter than that cocoa powder that had more than half of the butter squeezed out of it during processing. If you ate it out of a can, it would taste like a chocolate bar. As a result, true hot chocolate is generally much smoother and richer.

If you travel to Europe, you should ask for "drinking chocolate." These mixes contain relatively large chocolate pieces, which are then melted in boiling water or milk. Apparently, this is the original Swiss method of making hot chocolate -- breaking up chocolate bars and putting the pieces in hot water.

So Heidi probably would gag over Swiss Miss, which has milk chocolate "flavor" but is really a cocoa powder.

As for Bosco, nothing has happened to it. First produced in 1928, the kids' favorite is still made by Bosco Products Inc. in Towaco, N.J. -- along with strawberry, caramel and mocha flavors. If you can't find it in your store, order it through amazon.com (Junkies can get a 12-pack for $50.) Or go to www.boscoworld.com for information.

Now, if they'd only bring back Cocoa Marsh so I could use their pump I've saved ...

Q. Is it a good thing or a bad thing when a court case is "dismissed without prejudice"?

-- W.B.

A. Depends on whose ox is being gored, as I've found after witnessing an overload of "Judge Judy" just before the Fox2 news at 5.

Let's say you had a diamond ring wind up missing at your house. As far as you know, the only other person who had access to your house during that time frame when the ring vanished was your brother-in-law, so you file a lawsuit against him.

While it may seem obvious to you that your brother-in-law is the only suspect, the judge may want more proof, say, a witness or a security-camera video. So, he might dismiss your case "without prejudice," meaning that if you ever find that proof, you are allowed to refile the case against that family member. In other words, your case has a procedural problem and can go on once the problem is solved.

However, let's say you simply hate your brother-in-law and, to annoy him, you're constantly taking him to court over matters that are always dismissed. If he can prove this history of worthless nuisance suits to a judge's satisfaction, the judge likely will throw out your case "with prejudice." In other words, the judge has found your conduct so egregious that you cannot refile this particular case even if your sister later divorces him and admits that he stole the ring.

Today's trivia

Who played the giant robot Gort in "The Day the Earth Stood Still"?

Answer to Sunday's trivia: If you look at many websites, you'll find a popular myth that the HAL-9000 in "2001: A Space Odyssey" was named by shifting each letter of IBM back one letter. However, Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the book, vigorously denies this. "As is clearly stated in the novel (Chapter 16), HAL stands for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer," Clark wrote in his 1972 book, "The Lost Worlds of 2001." "However, about once a week some character spots the fact that HAL is one letter ahead of IBM ... As it happened, IBM had given us a good deal of help, so we were quite embarrassed by this, and would have changed the name had we spotted the coincidence." A good reminder for trivia-night writers to do their homework.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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