Mexican Hot Chocolate
It’s only been a day since we left Playa del Carmen, and I’m already missing the flavors of Mexico (not to mention the luxurious summer heat, the lazy days by the pool, our palatial hotel bathroom, and the pleasures of room service and housekeeping :-P).
Though I’ve always loved Mexican food (or really, Tex-Mex, which is a totally different animal), I’ve always skewed more French or classic American with my cooking at home. Mexican food is so delicious and affordable at restaurants, we usually just default to that when a craving strikes (which is often); but after having exceptional coastal Mexican cuisine at our fingertips all weekend, I’m thinking I may need to expand my repertoire!
An easy gateway recipe that fuses my love of Mexican flavors and my infatuation with chocolate is traditional Mexican hot chocolate. I’m always on the lookout for versions of this spicy treat, comprised of steamy whole milk infused with warm spices like cinnamon, cayenne, star anise or nutmeg. I like mine thick and slightly gritty with the rustic texture of the ground spices and minimally refined chocolate – this is a homey, handmade affair that luxuriates in the process.
Powdered hot chocolates have their place (I even like those chewy, hardened marshmallow nubs if you catch me in the right mood), but once you start making your fall and winter pick-me-up with real melted chocolate and buttery whole milk, it’s hard to go back.
Much to my delight, the breakfast buffet at our hotel had a large orange earthenware crock of Mexican hot chocolate warming over a small burner every morning. I would dip the ladle into the liquid, swirling to distribute the spices, and see whole vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and star-shaped anise bobbing around amiably, infusing the liquid with their warm, rounded flavors. After pouring several spoonfuls into a matching clay mug, I’d sip slowly, watching the birds play on the terrace overlooking the resort pool and relishing in the warmth and sunshine.
I’ve been slowly shaking off the glow of travel and returning to routine, and this morning during my jog the Denver air was brisk, hinting at cooler days around the corner. Hot chocolate was just the thing to bridge the transition from vacation to sweet memory, and I reached into the pantry to retrieve a disc of Dead Dog Mexican Drinking Chocolate.
I ran across Denver-based bean-to-bar Dead Dog Chocolates at the Sunday farmer’s market on Old South Pearl, where they were sampling their delicious hand-ground bars and sipping chocolates (as well as handing out cute dog skeleton tattoos!) With cute packaging and a stellar product, I immediately snatched up a box of their Mexican Drinking Chocolate.
Stone-ground with raw cane sugar and Ceylon cinnamon, these chocolate discs are not your everyday Abuelita’s. While most spice cabinet cinnamon jars contain the cassia cinnamon we’ve all grown up with and love, Ceylon cinnamon is kind of like cassia’s cooler, exotic cousin. With a smoother, less biting flavor with traces of citrus, Ceylon adds a fun flavor twist (I like to use it in chai tea, as well, since the flavor is a bit more foreign – wakes up the palate!).
While true Mexican hot chocolate was traditionally mixed with water to emphasize the flavors of the chocolate, I like the way whole milk rounds out and gives body to the spices. You can use other, lighter milks, or even nut or rice milks, but trust me, the creamy milkfat of whole is where it’s at :).
Warming the milk and chocolate over low heat and slowly stirring gives you time to reflect and enjoy the silence. I love making hot chocolate with real chocolate, but if you don’t mix it just right, it can often leave small bits of undissolved chocolate floating in your milk – I was impressed with how smoothly and completely this disc melted, leaving nothing but a creamy swirl of spices floating in my mug.
Take a few moments to enjoy the process – the payoff is worth it! Fill up your most special mug, then close your eyes and imagine you are somewhere warm and tropical, if only for a minute.
I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ – 1 Dead Dog Mexican Drinking Chocolate Disc (½ for lightly spiced, 1 for thicker, deeper flavor)
- Pour cold milk into a small saucer, place disc in saucer. Warm over low heat, stirring slowly with a whisk until chocolate begins to melt. Whisk until fully melted.
- For a thicker, richer experience, use less milk. For a cleaner, chocolate-focused drink, use water.
- 2 cups whole milk
- Cinnamon stick, snapped in half
- ¼ tsp. Ceylon or regular cinnamon
- ¼ vanilla bean, split (or ¼ tsp vanilla extract)
- A few rasps of freshly grated nutmeg (or a small pinch of ground)
- Sprinkle of cayenne pepper (add this carefully and slowly if you are unsure of your preferred heat level!)
- ½ tsp allspice berries (optional)
- ½ tsp peppercorns (optional)
- 1 star anise (optional)
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 4 oz. finely chopped dark chocolate (I prefer Valrhona, if you’re feeling fancy, or Ghirardelli is my favorite budget brand). The bitterness of dark chocolate is essential!
- 4 oz. finely chopped dark chocolate (I prefer Valrhona, if you’re feeling fancy, or Ghirardelli is my favorite budget brand) The bitterness of dark chocolate is essential!
- Combine milk and all ingredients in a saucer. Stir slowly with smooth motions frequently as the milk warms. Whisk until chocolate is fully melted. Strain into mugs if you want an easy sip, or drink around the spices for added flair!