I was looking for a way to make hot cocoa with less refined sugar, and came up with the idea to use dates. Initially, I was just looking for a sweetener replacement...but then I fell in love with the caramel-y taste of the dates in my cocoa and amped it up with an extra bit of salt!
Please note: This recipe really only works in the microwave. I don't know why, but I've tried it on the stovetop and it just never thickens in the same glorious way. I wouldn't insist if it wasn't true!
As for milk, both almond and dairy work just fine.
More at my blog: http://whateverpieces.com/2017/02/06/date-salted-caramel-and-almond-milk-hot-cocoa/ —Stephanie H.
If your dates have pits, cut them in half and remove them. Cut each date into quarters. Dice and add to the jar of a blender.
Add the salt and almond milk. Blend, blend and blend some more, until the dates have been reduced to tiny specks. (If you don't have a super high-powered blender, I find it helpful to blend the dates with half the milk first, then add the rest once they have broken down a bit.)
Add the cocoa powder and espresso powder then run the blender for another 5-10 seconds to make sure it's fully incorporated. It will be frothy on top. Taste; add more salt if you think it's necessary. Remember, we're shooting for salted caramel.
Pour the mixture into a microwave-safe mug (or a cup, and drink it like chocolate milk). It's going to bubble up, so shoot for a mug that holds at least 12 oz.
Place the mug in the microwave. Heat for 1-2 minutes until hot, watching carefully. If at any time the mixture looks about to boil over, stop the microwave and stir. Repeat until it's as hot as you'd like.