The AwkEng Hot Cocoa Recipe (and Cooking Cheat Sheet)

Hi all,

Today's post was an excuse to talk about cooking, thermal engineering, graphic design, and hot cocoa, all in one post.

I love cooking, and in particular, cooking with gadgets. The sous vide (cooking to steady state thermal equilibrium), the pressure cooker (phase diagrams and the ideal gas law at work), or the convection oven (convective heat transfer coefficients), all produce fantastic cooking results, and appeal to my engineering sensibilities and appreciation for the underlying principals at work.

The Problem

The problem is that with the precision of all these technologies comes the need to know what settings to use, which often has me turning to a laptop or smartphone to look up a recipe online. If you follow this blog, you'd know that pervasive smartphone use is a condition I've been trying to cut back on. (see The AwkEng Fights Off Distractions from the Internet and How the AwkEng Coped with COVID in 2020 (by Ignoring Work Email))

Anyway... the ideal solution for me should be offline, easy to find on a moments notice (no leafing through index cards of recipes for me!), and can't be hand written, because I'm going to want to update and revise this over time.

The Fix

The fix was pretty simple. I made a cheat sheet with crib notes for my favorite recipes and gadget settings. It's printed out and taped to the inside of one of the kitchen cabinets. It was also a fun reason to use some graphic design skills, which I hadn't had a ton of opportunity to flex at the time I made version 1 of the sheet about a year ago.

Be forewarned, the sheet just has notes, so whether they're of use to anyone but me is questionable, but regardless, I wanted to share. (pdf here)

Cooking cheat sheet

The Hot Cocoa Recipe

Anyway, I updated the sheet to Version 3 this weekend to include a hot cocoa recipe. With chilly nights in Boston now coming in short supply, I don't know how often I'll be making it, but it's a recipe I tried over and over this past winter to get right.

The tricky part was using the right amount of corn starch to thicken the cocoa ever so slightly, which makes it super rich, and then remembering to make a proper slurry at the beginning, to get the cocoa to fully dissolve.

Here's the non-cheat sheet version for those following along at home.

Makes 8oz of cocoa so intense it's best to share with 2

  • 8oz milk
  • 1 tbsp. sugar (heaping is ok)
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa (slightly heaping is ok)
  • 1/2 tsp. corn starch
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of vanilla
  • cinnamon or chili powder, if desired
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a sauce pan
  2. Add enough cold milk to barely cover the bottom of the sauce pan. The less milk you use the easier it will be to form a slurry in the next step,
  3. Stir, stir, stir, stir with a whisk to break up the cocoa and cornstarch and form a slurry. If there are lumps of cocoa or cornstarch, you need to stir some more.
  4. Slowly add the rest of the cold milk and vanilla. Keep stirring.
  5. Now heat while stirring until the cocoa thickens, just past 170 deg F. The milk will be steaming.
  6. Turn off heat and pour into mugs to serve.

best regards!



  • you are correct, sir! Kenji’s recipe indeed, and it is solid.

  • That looks like Kenji’s roast potato recipe. My favorite.


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