In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and sweetener of your choice over medium-low heat until it just warms, whisking every 30 seconds or so. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat--milk scorches easily!
In a separate small bowl, sift the cocoa powder using a fine mesh strainer. Mix the salt into the cocoa powder. Once the milk is warm to touch, remove about 1/4 cup of milk and pour over the cocoa powder. Whisk well until the cocoa powder is fully incorporated and dissolved into the milk and then pour the cocoa mixture back into the milk whisking to combine.
In the same bowl that you whisked the cocoa powder, add the chocolate chunks or chips. Pour 1 cup of the warm milk over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk the melted chocolate back into the saucepan.
Continue to heat over medium-low heat just until the mixture is fully warmed--about 2-3 minutes. Taste and add more sweetener if desired, whisking to melt the sugar into the hot chocolate.
Turn off the heat and stir in vanilla extract.
Serve with whipped cream or marshmallows.
Make sure you don’t overheat the milk. You do not want the milk to boil.
For the milk, whole or 2% is best. Almond milk and canned coconut milk are good dairy-free substitutes.
For the chocolate, use chopped up chocolate bars or morsels. I prefer to use 70% dark chocolate, but you can use semi-sweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, or dairy-free chocolate.
For the sweetener: I use maple syrup, but granulated sugar works as well and will not leave any hints of maple flavor. It is important to remember if you use a milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate, you will want to cut the amount of sugar you add to your hot chocolate. You can always add more at the end if needed!
Be sure to use 100% unsweetened cocoa powder.
Leftover hot chocolate can be stored in an air tight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheat as desired.