What might be the cure for the winter blues? Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate. How about three tempting ways to enjoy chocolate: Mole, Hot Mexican Chocolate, and Mexican Chocolate Cake.
A steaming cup of hot chocolate, heady with a frothy top of foam and carrying the spices and other flavor notes of the Americas, is truly a treat that has conquered the rest of the world. The history of chocolate reaches back into the earliest era of the human experience in the Americas from the Olmecs to the Maya, followed by the Aztecs, and was used in religious rites, royal ceremonies, and even as everyday currency.
THE BIRTH OF A SWEET TREAT
Karen Hursh Graber wrote a wonderful profile of Mexican Chocolate on Mexconnect: Mexican Chocolate: A Culinary Evolution. Karen writes, “Chocolate, perhaps the most popular of sweet foods, had a long history in Mesoamerica before the Europeans arrived, at which time it was neither sweet nor a food, but a beverage, and a sour one at that. Many years and outside influences were involved in its culinary evolution.”
Read Related: Flourless Chocolate Almond Cupcakes
According to Karen, the Maya inherited the word “cacao” from the Olmecs and chocolate, the beverage, began as a bitter drink free from any sweetener except the occasional infusion of honey. So much has changed in the world of chocolate! Now, after centuries of chocolate-making both here and in Europe, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla, almonds, and other ingredients keep Mexican Hot Chocolate company in a cup.
Nowadays, you can find Mexican chocolate sold in tablet and bar form under brands such as Abuelita, Ibarra, and Chocolate Popular.
Original quotes first appeared in Mexconnect.
Chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author, Aaron Sanchez offers us his favorite preparation of mole, using chiles, dried fruit and of course, Mexican chocolate. This recipes makes a large amount which can keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator or up to three months in the freezer.
MOLE, MY WAY
Makes: 1 gallon
½ lb guajillo chiles, (about 32), stemmed, seeded and deveined
½ lb pasilla chiles (bout 24), stemmed, seeded an ddeveined
½ lb ancho chiles (about 16), stemmed, seeded, and deveined
2 medium yellow onions, quartered
4 medium tomatoes, cored and quartered
10 fresh tomatillos (about 1 lb), husked and rinsed
8 large whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup pitted prunes
1 cup dried apricots
1 bottle red wine
2 TBSP dried whole oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 TBSP cumin seeds
1 TBSP fennel seeds
2 TBSP black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
2 large canela (Mexican cinnamon) or 4 cinnamon sticks
4 quarts chicken stock (low-sodium)
2 sweet (black) plantains (about ¾ lb)
1 oz Mexican chocolate
5 corn tortillas, charred over an open flame until blackened in spots
- Preheat the oven to 500°. Spread the guajillo, pasilla, and ancho chiles on a baking sheet an dput in the oven. Cook for 2 minutes, or until they are fragrant. Take the pan out of the oven (leave the oven on), transfer the chilies to a large bowl or pot, and pour in enough water to cover them.
- Let the chiles soak until they are soft, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, put the onions, tomatoes, tomatillos, and garlic on a clean baking sheet and roast in the oven until the vegetables are slightly charred, about 7 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and set it aside.
- Combine the prunes, apricots, and raisins with the red wine in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a strong simmer and cook until the fruit has absorbed most of the wine and the remaining liquid is syrupy, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
- Heat a dry medium skillet over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in the oregano, cumin, fennel, peppercorns, cloves and canela. Cook, stirring constantly so as not to burn the spices, until they just begin to smoke. The moment they do, transfer them to a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.
- Drain the chiles and discard the soaking water. Combine the chiles, vegetables, fruits and ground spices in a very large heavy-bottomed pot.
- Pour in the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, until the flavors meld. Meanwhile, peel the plantains (just as you peel a banana) and slice them crosswise into 1″ thick pieces. Heat 3 inches of oil in a deep skillet over medium heat and fry the plantain slices until they’re golden.
- Scoop them out with a slotted spoon or a skimmer and add them to the mole pot along with the chocolate and tortillas. Simmer for 15 minutes more.
- Remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Puree the mole in batches in a blender until it’s very smooth. Season with salt to taste. Store in airtight containers.
Chef Luis Arce Mota, Chef/Owner of New York City’s Ofrenda restaurant, shared this recipe for his grown-up version of delicious hot chocolate. Chile de arbol gives the drink a bit of spice and heat. Chef Luis says, “My mother used to make this for me when I was growing up in Mazatlán after we came home from surfing during the winter months.” For a creamier hot chocolate, let it cool completely, and then reheat it just before serving. To keep the beverage hot, warm the cups by rinsing them with hot water before serving the hot chocolate.
HOT CHOCOLATE WITH A KICK
Makes: 6 Cups
6 cups milk
2 pieces star anise
2 3-inch sticks cinnamon
1 dried chile de arbol
2 tablets Ibarra sweet chocolate
- Heat milk, star anise, cinnamon, cloves and chile de arbol in saucepan.
- As soon as mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain spices from milk. Return milk to heat and add chocolate, whisking continuously until chocolate dissolves and milk becomes foamy.
- Serve hot.
Rich in cocoa, buttermilk, pecans, and cinnamon…this cake is perfect for any day or special occasions. For extra indulgence place a scoop of vanilla ice cream alongside this cake.
MEXICAN CHOCOLATE CAKE
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 TBSP cocoa
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TSP baking soda
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 TSP ground cinnamon
1 TSP vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil 11 x 13 baking pan. Heat butter, oil, cocoa and water in saucepan until cocoa dissolves.
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, sugar, milk, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla in large bowl.
- Whisk cocoa mixture into flour mixture until combine. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.
1 stick unsalted butter
¼ cup cocoa
6 TBSP milk
½-1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 TSP vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
- Combine margarine, cocoa, and milk in saucepan.
- Heat until bubbles form around edge.
- Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and nuts.
- Start whisking in ½ cup sugar. Taste and add more sugar as necessary.
- Slowly pour icing over cake.
- Cover and store at room temperature.