Mexican Hot Chocolate

The history of Mexican hot chocolate stems back to Montezuma, who reportedly introduced chocolate to Hernando Cortez in the 15th century. Back then, the Aztec Indians acquired cocoa beans from the cocao tree through trade with the Mayan Indians, and referred to their special cocoa bean drink as chocolatl. Today, that same drink with some variation, is called Mexican hot chocolate.

Undoubtedly, the Aztecs had a special way of roasting the white cocoa beans until they were brown and bursting with flavor. They probably had a unique method of grinding the beans and creating the chocolate that was as loved back then as it is today. Presumably, the same ingredients-along with a few new ones-that the Aztecs added to their authentic chocolatl drink are still added to the same chocolate drink we create today. The biggest difference between the Aztec's authentic Mexican hot chocolate drink and the one we enjoy today is that the original used to be served cold.

How to Make Mexican Hot Chocolate
Compared to other hot chocolate recipes, Mexican hot cocoa is as different as it is the same. As with all hot chocolate, the first step is to roast and crush cocoa beans into coarse grounds. The cocoa bean grounds are then heated-melting almost immediately-and a mixture of sugar and spices are added. The addition of chili pepper powder gives Mexican hot chocolate that little extra kick.

Mexican Hot Chocolate With Whipped Topping

Ingredients You Will Need:
2 cups milk or sweet cream
¾ cup water
1 split vanilla bean or one teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee
Crushed almonds
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon chili pepper powder
4 ounces dark chocolate

Boil water in a small saucepan.  Add vanilla, sugar, coffee and cinnamon. Reserve a pinch of the cinnamon/chili powder mixture and set aside. Stir to dissolve. Add grated chocolate over low heat. Simmer until chocolate melts, then whisk briskly until the mixture thickens. Add milk or cream and stir until it simmers. Remove from heat, pour into mugs and add a generous dollop of whipped topping with a sprinkling of crushed almonds and a pinch of the cinnamon/chili pepper powder on top.

Mexican Hot Chocolate With Ice Cream

Ingredients You Will Need:
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
3 to 4 discs of authentic Mexican chocolate
A pinch of sea salt (optional)
Crushed almonds
1 to 2 split vanilla beans (or one to two teaspoon vanilla extract)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon chili powder

Mix the salt, crushed almonds, cinnamon and chili powder and set aside. Simmer milk in small saucepan. Grate the chocolate and add to the warm milk. Using a Mexican utensil called a molinillo, whisk the milk briskly until the chocolate melts. At this point, you can use the molinillo to whisk in the powdered ingredients. Or, for a sensation that can't be beat, take a scoop of vanilla ice cream, roll it in the powdered ingredients and drop it into the hot chocolate. The ice cream will cool the drink and give you a taste of what Montezuma's palette enjoyed each time he imbibed.

If the end result is too rich, you can always switch the milk and heavy cream measurements.

Purchasing Authentic Ingredients
When purchasing authentic Mexican chocolate, keep in mind that the chocolate has already been laced with vanilla, cinnamon and almond extract or crushed almonds. Less spice will be added. In keeping with the proper flavors, when adding ice cream to the hot chocolate, it's best to purchase pure vanilla bean flavored ice cream.

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