What seems like eons ago, as a college freshman, I studied abroad in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I will always look back fondly on my time in the “city of eternal spring” —it was my first time outside the United States, and the beginning of my love affair with the Spanish language and travel (if you don’t count my lifetime of experience armchair traveling).
For me, Mexican food is like pizza. Even “bad” tacos are better than no tacos and are far superior to “bad” roast beef or chicken noodle soup. A primo example of this is Mexico’s version of intestines, menudo. While I’m not the world’s biggest intestine fan, if I have to eat ’em, I prefer the super-spiced Mexican version to under-seasoned versions from other countries. Also, did I mention that Mexican caldo de pollo knocks the socks off of Campbells? Pico de gallo and chunks of avocado make everything better.
During a steamy Mexico summer, hot chocolate was something I didn’t expect to fall in love with, but there it is. Every evening after dinner, my host mother would offer it up, and more often than not, I would help her make it from hard tablets of chocolate and spices, using a traditional wooden tool closely resembling an elaborately carved brown and white baby rattle called a molinillo (loosely translated, a grinder, even though it works more like a whisk)- to break the chunks of chocolate into pieces and then stir it into hot milk or hot water.
Since the Mexican chocolate tablets my host mother used were super-sweet, I liked mine best brewed with water and not diluted with milk, but when I make my own version at home in Barcelona, where I generally go without Ibarra Mexican chocolate tablets, I like to use 2% milk or if I’m feeling really decadent, whole milk.
Here’s my version of Mexican hot chocolate (makes 2 small servings)
- 2 cups of whole milk
- 4 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp finely ground red pepper
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 tsp brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons whipped cream
- Heat up your milk until reaches a boil.
- Stir in the cocoa powder, cinnamon, red pepper, vanilla extract and brown sugar until it dissolves.
- Froth the mixture with a whisk, or a Mexican molinillo if you have it.
- Serve with whipped cream on top, if desired.
Extra tips and variations:
- Make a lower fat version by skipping the whipped cream and preparing hot chocolate with 2%, 1% or skim milk
- Make a vegan version with rice or soy milk
- Make a sugar-free version with stevia or your favorite sugar substitute.
- Omit or reduce spices according to your taste
- Use less cocoa powder for a “milk chocolate” effect
- Use more sugar for a sweeter hot cocoa.
- Goes well with fresh bread and butter, homemade donuts, churros, or for sugar-junkies like my husband, with Christmas cookies.