Winter came again to our part of Mexico. I know this means everybody north of the border is really having winter, but we can have winter, too, can’t we, even if the thermometer only reads 71 F.? And it has been raining all day. Believe me, after eight months of heat, I’m going to call this winter. (Do I hear a snicker out there?) To celebrate winter’s return and to warm up a bit, I made hot chocolate, Mexican style. Theobroma Cacao, cultivated in southern Mexico, means “food of the gods” and to drink a cup of hot chocolate may be a divine experience.
To make hot chocolate, heat one cup of water and one cup of milk. You could use all milk or all water, as some Mexican recipes specify, but I like the mixture of both. (For a less sweet, lighter version, use one and one half cups of each.) If you really want to be traditional, you can use an earthenware pot, similar to the one I used for cooking black beans, but smaller. When the milk and water are almost boiling, stir in the chocolate pieces until the chocolate has melted. Simmer for a few minutes, then beat until frothy. Modern cooks use a blender to create the froth, but using a molinillo, the hand-carved chocolate beater with its jangling carved wooden rings, will connect you to the Mexican cooks of yesteryear.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
1 cup (8 fl. oz./230 ml.) water
1 cup ( 8 fl. oz./230 ml. ) milk
1 3-oz. (90 grams) tablet of Ibarra or other Mexican chocolate, broken into pieces
Heat milk and water until almost boiling. Cut chocolate disc into small pieces. Ibarra discs are really hard. They will chop more easily if warmed first in a micro-wave oven for 10 seconds.
Add pieces of chocolate to hot water and milk and stir until melted.
Using a molinillo or blender*, beat until there is a thick layer of foamy bubbles. To use a molinillo hold it between your hands and spin it vigorously.
For a “gringo” touch, add a dollop of whipped cream on top of the finished hot chocolate, sprinkled with ground cinnamon. You could also stir in a pinch of dried ancho chile.
*Be very careful when using an electric blender with hot liquids. Hold the lid on very firmly and leave plenty of head room in the blender jar.
Update: The temperature has dropped to 71 F., with a forecasted low of 66 tonight. I’m looking for a sweater.