hot chocolate is whipped by the molinillo as Edgar
Alvarez prepares Mexican hot chocolate at his
Pittsburgh stand on January 12, 2014.
mornings this winter have found me making like a Mexican
grandmother and making Mexican hot chocolate.
is for my first-grader son, who learned in his Spanish class
about chocolate and how to properly make it.
that would be by melting Mexican chocolate in hot milk and
then spinning and whipping it into a froth using a wooden
whisk called a molinillo.
can find molinillos and chocolate at Hispanic food stores.
You even can find at least one brand of Mexican chocolate at
some supermarkets: Abuelita, which translates as
"Little Grandmother" or "Granny" and is
a well-known brand made by Nestle.
comes in a fetching hexagonal box, which holds a stack of
paper-wrapped discs of chocolate, to which a strong cinnamon
flavor is added. In Mexico, chocolate often contains
almonds, vanilla and perhaps other spices, as well.
less-refined "table chocolate," grainy with sugar
crystals, is not meant to be eaten as is. But I can’t
resist nibbling stray pieces when I make the morning
chocolate, and am growing quite fond of it. I thought it was
delicious in a chocolate cake recipe I found in a new
you also can get Abuelita in powdered instant form. But the
longer, traditional preparation process is part of the fun
of the tablets. I’d like to find and try some other
brands, such as Ibarra. (And get some made with real
cinnamon, not artificial flavor. Please.)
lot of places make and serve authentic Mexican hot
chocolate, but keep an eye out for it, and also for a
version thickened with corn flour (masa harina) called
used to drink it in cold weather with churros," a sort
of doughnut for dunking, says Edgar Alvarez, of Pittsburgh’s
Edgar Taco Stand, where the semi-secret recipe calls for a
mix of milk and water, Mexican chocolate, Mexican vanilla
and lots of cinnamon, hand-whipped with a molinillo. An
8-ounce foam cup sells for $2.
love it," he says, even though some hear the
"Mexican" and expect it to be spicier than just
from the cinnamon. Frothing it with a molinillo just makes
it that much better. "People watch … and they say,
‘Oh yeah — this is the real stuff.’"
chocolate also can be used for other dishes. At Casa Reyna
restaurant in Pittsburgh, notes owner Nic DiCio, they use it
to make chocolate ice cream and cake, as well as in mole
sauces. "In Mexico they have shops specializing in
grinding the roasted bean with different formulations of
cinnamon, almonds and sugar."
Mexico, after all, that gave the world chocolate. Indigenous
people grew and roasted cacao beans, which they ground up to
make a hot drink that wasn’t sweet until Spaniards got
their hands on it.
Lebanon, Pa., elementary-school Spanish teacher Tania M.
Conte sent this recipe home with her students, noting that
Abuelita brand chocolate can be found at some grocery
stores. If you don’t have a molinillo, you can use a
wedges of Mexican chocolate, or 2 quarter tablets
cups milk in a small saucepan on low heat. Warm the milk
gradually. Don’t let it boil.
a Mexican chocolate tablet. Cut/break off the wedges using
the dull side of a knife.
the chocolate in the warm milk and let the wedges soften for
about 30 seconds.
the wide end of the molinillo — or your whisk — to
gently mash the chocolate.
use the molinillo or whisk to stir the chocolate milk.
steam begins to rise from the milk, spin the molinillo (or
whisk) briskly back and forth in the milk to create tiny
bubbles that gang up together to become froth.
pour hot chocolate into cups and enjoy!
Tania M. Conte
simple but exotic loaf cake recipe comes from the first
cookbook from Aliya LeeKong, a former professional cook who
has an Indo-Pakistani and Tanzanian background and who is
married to "a guy from Brooklyn, whose family comes
from Trinidad by way of Venezuela, Spain and China." It’s
a very interesting book with some very interesting recipes,
many of them vegetarian like this one.
writes that she has "a serious love affair going with
Mexican chocolate," which made her go on "a
rampage, sneaking it into desserts whenever I could and even
going so far as to add it to my morning coffee on occasion
(ridiculous, I know). A pastry chef I work with looked down
his nose when I told him I was doing a loaf cake, but I
adore them! Loaf cakes are unassuming and, when decadent
enough like this one, an unexpected bite of seemingly casual
luxury. This one is rich and moist, with melted bites of
Mexican chocolate and that kick of cinnamon."
cups all-purpose flour
cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon baking soda
sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
creme fraiche, softened at room temperature
dark brown sugar
large eggs, at room temperature
teaspoons vanilla extract
ounces Mexican chocolate, chopped finely
sugar, for garnish
the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch
loaf pan and set aside.
bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon,
baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
stand mixer with the paddle attachment or use a hand mixer,
and cream together the butter, creme fraiche and the sugars
until light and fluffy using medium speed. Stop and scrape
down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is fully
incorporated. With the mixer back on, add eggs one at a time
and vanilla extract.
speed on the mixer and add 1/3 of the flour mixture followed
by 1/3 of the chocolate. Repeat twice and then scrape down.
Mix again briefly only so that the batter is just uniform
— be careful not to overmix.
batter to the loaf pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until
a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Let cool on a
rack before unmolding — run a thin knife along the sides
if it’s sticking. Serve garnished with confectioners’
"Exotic Table: Flavors, Inspiration, and Recipes from
Around the World — to Your Kitchen " by Aliya LeeKong
(Adams, Nov. 2013, $35)