Swoon to the movie “Like Water for Chocolate”? We do. For many reasons, among them the fact that the title draws, word for word, on an ageless and really quite apt Mexican saying. See, when someone is said to be “like water for chocolate,” they’re at the point of boiling over with emotion. Makes perfect sense when you consider that in Mexico, where hot chocolate is made the proper way and not from pathetic little envelopes, water must be sufficiently caliente in order to melt the discs of slowly toasted, hand-ground cacao, sugar, and aromatics into something to sip. This old-fashioned approach results in the “wonderfully frothy hot chocolate from Oaxaca” that Fany Gerson speaks of in her book, My Sweet Mexico, and captures in the recipe below.
Said chocolate discs—or tablets, as Gerson says—exist in a vast array of styles. Plain. Infused with chiles. Spiced. Nutty. With a lilt of vanilla. And, um, other intriguing things.–David Leite
LC Holy Moli-What? Note
Mexican hot chocolate is traditionally energetically beaten with a molinillo and, according to Gerson, poured from up high so the not-too-sweet sipper is foamy. She says it’s okay to use a whisk if you don’t have a wooden tool that’s turned with the palms of your hands to froth the hot chocolate. But for best results, just make sure the chocolate is really frothy and really hot before you drink it.
Mexican Hot Chocolate ~ Chocolate Caliente
- 3/4 cup or so whole milk or water
- 1 Mexican chocolate disc or tablet, broken into pieces (these may be flavored with almonds, spice, chiles, vanilla, or nothing but cacao)
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil. Add the chocolate (the quantity depends on how rich you like your hot chocolate), reduce the heat, and stir until the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and froth vigorously with a molinillo, a whisk, or a hand mixer until you have a nice, bubbly foam. Immediately pour into a mug.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Not all hot chocolate is created equal. Over the years, our cups have swilled many a version of hot cocoa. You know, the powdery concoction… this Mexican hot chocolate gives you the comfort of a chocolatey soothing drink without all the sugar. Furthermore, I found that the ritual of adding your own flavourings and frothing with a manual tool added to the expectation of the mindful activity of sipping.
I actually purchased the Mexican chocolate disks for this recipe. They were totally worth it! I chose to stay within the Mexican flavour profile and flavoured my hot chocolate with dry pasilla chili. I used a frother whisk and 1% milk. I knew that if I enjoyed this drink with low-fat milk, then for sure I’d love it with full fat.
The only thing I recommend is that if adding flavour with solids such as chilies, a 5-minute steeping time should be added to this recipe. I tried whisking the chocolate with the pieces of chilies and wasn’t very successful. Infusing the liquid, then removing the solid and adding the chocolate to melt made for a frothier drink. I also recommend making two servings and sharing. This only adds 2 minutes to the preparation and results in double pleasure.
By the way, my chili addition of 3 inches of dry chili without the seeds was just enough heat to warm my senses. The spice and chocolate both created the sensation of calm and well-being. No wonder this was the Aztec’s drink of choice!
If we could just remember how simple and satisfying hot chocolate from scratch is, there probably would be fewer sad envelopes sold with long ingredient lists that don’t resemble goodness. I admit to being slightly intimidated every time I look at my little stash of stone-ground chocolate discs, telling myself to use them, not worship. The first time I worked up the nerve, I mixed the coarse grinds into a batch of homemade coffee ice cream and was astonished. Today, with my coffee grinder waiting for parts but winter’s chill in the air, I tackled this for the win.
My disks (I doubled the recipe so there would be no sharing issue) were easily chopped in a mezzaluna, the curved blade and bowl making sure not a single bit of chocolate was lost to the kitchen floor. I used a mixture of whole milk + water (25%) so it would not be too thick. The disks I have are 70% cocoa and are flavoured with orange oil. If they had been plain, I might suggest a pinch of ground chile or cinnamon or a bit of flaky salt. This had perfect sweetness without being cloying. One saucepan and a chopping bowl and smiles all around.