There is nothing more warming and comforting than a cup of hot chocolate. Steaming, fragrant and rich, chocolate warms both the hands and the tummy. Up until the 19th century, hot chocolate or hot cocoa was used medicinally to treat liver and stomach ailments. The beverage was more bitter, not the highly sweetened version of today.
There are many variations and methods for preparing hot chocolate at home using either cocoa powder or bar chocolate. When working with solid chocolate, I’ve found that it melts more evenly when first shaved or grated. This makes it easier to whisk or stir into a saucepan of hot milk and cream.
Food manufacturers add dry milk powder to cocoa powder to produce mixes that just need water. While it’s easy to make this hot beverage, the result is watery and tasteless, and certainly does not satisfy any chocolate craving.
In my armchair travels to Mexico, I’ve read many recipes for hot chocolate; a rich, creamy, spicy and frothy beverage, often sold by street vendors. The chocolate flavor is infused with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla bean, and cayenne pepper. Food historians know that early Mayans ground cocoa beans into a paste and mixed it with chili peppers, water and corn meal to make one of the first chocolate beverages.
In the recipe for Mexican hot chocolate, the cocoa powder is combined with sugar and spices, then made into a slurry with Maine maple syrup. This chocolate slurry, when whisked into hot milk and cream, froths into an amazing chocolate sensation. For a rich dessert, serve in small espresso cups or juice glasses. Better yet, pour Mexican Hot Chocolate into a heated thermos and enjoy on the cross-country ski trail.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder preferably Dutch processed
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons Maine maple syrup
- 1 cup cream
- 1 cup milk
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar and spices. Whisk in the Maine maple syrup.
- Add the cream to a small saucepan and set over medium – low heat. Whisk in the chocolate mixture, and continue to whisk as you slowly bring the mixture up to heat. Add the milk and continue to whisk until the hot chocolate is ready to drink, around 180 degrees.
- Portion into small espresso cups and serve.
- Makes 6 servings.