Mexican Hot Chocolate
I was a little perplexed as to what constitutes authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate. Thankfully a reader from Mexico explained to me that unlike other hot chocolate “drinks” in the Mexican repertoire, it traditionally was a mixture of cocoa beans and sweetener. Yet nowadays folks generally use sweet chocolate bars as a base, which are made from coarsely ground chocolate with a dose of cinnamon and sugar, and sometimes almonds, and are conveniently sold in tablets or bars in Mexican shops.
That chocolate bears a passing resemblance to the coarse chocolate that Mexicans have been grinding up in metates for thousands of years (which I think is why Mexican women have those power shoulders), and today you can find Mexican chocolate quite a bit slicker than the stuff that was (and still is, in some places) pounded for hours and hours. Although I’m not Mexican in any way, I have a deep love of anything edible, and drinkable, that’s Mexican—from horchata, to the twirly green bottle of citrusy Squirt soda that are fun to swill on a Mexican beach, along with a basket of chips and some spicy roasted chili salsa. Or guacamole. Or duck tacos. Or ceviche. Or all of them.
The chocolate used nowadays for hot chocolate is classified in America as “Sweet Chocolate”, which is different than what we label as bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.
Sweet chocolate only has to have 15% cacao solids whereas the other chocolates have over twice as much. The primary ingredient is sugar followed by chocolate and cinnamon or other flavorings. In spite of the added sugar, it’s what people use as a base for a chocolate-flavored atole and Mexican hot chocolate.
Although I got a lesson in making champurrado (hot chocolate atole made with cornstarch or masa) on a recent trip to Mexico, a kind young hombre gifted me a lovely tablet of La Frontera Mexican chocolate after I returned north of the border, to Houston. And when I got home and decided to make myself a cup of Mexican hot chocolate, I was amused to find the recipe on the back of the package called for 8 cups (2l) of milk for the 7 ounce (200g) bar, which is a tad less than an ounce of chocolate (and sweet chocolate, at that…) per cup.
I have to admit that I like my hot chocolate a little stronger than that, and less sweet. But there’s something endearing about that crumbly Mexican chocolate that crinkles with sugar when you snap pieces off. So I upped the proportion of Mexican chocolate and added some unsweetened cocoa powder, which brought up the chocolate flavor and richness to where I like it. So perhaps I should call is Mexican-American hot chocolate, as it combines the best of both worlds in one steamy cup.
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