Although Mexican chocolate is a type of sweetened chocolate, it is quite different from other sweetened varieties, so much so that I think it merits its own separate section in this blog.
Here is a bit of interesting Mexican chocolate lore. The Mexican molinillo (moh-lee-NEE-yoh) is a Mexican chocolate “whisk” or “stirrer”. It is made of “turned” wood, and it is used to froth warm drinks such as hot chocolate, Atole (thick, masa-based) and Champurrado (chocolate-based Atole). I saw a few of them last week while touring SOMA Chocolatemaker on King Street West (Toronto). Here are both a photo I took at SOMA and a link to a website about the history of molinillos and Mexican hot chocolate.
Mexican chocolate is made in Guadalajara, Mexico (or at least the popular Ibarra brand is). Cocoa nibs are ground with sugar and cinnamon. It is distinctively sweet and is typically flavored with cinnamon, but sometimes nuts as well. Its texture is quite grainy. It comes in 1/2’” thick disks which are about 3 ¼” in diameter. Each disk weighs 3.1 ounces and is delineated into 8 wedges. (Abuelita is also sold in bar form, though it’s harder to find.) Two wedges seems to be just the right amount for a cup of hot chocolate, made with steaming milk.
Mexican chocolate is most typically used to make hot chocolate. It is coarsely chopped and added to water or milk, which is then frothed with a molinillo (or you can substitute a whisk, a blender or a cappuccino frother). Mexican chocolate is also used in many mole sauce recipes. Although it is sweetened, it is a fundamental ingredient that tempers and deepens the flavor of chile peppers (according to the great Mexican chef Rick Bayless).
Here is more good reading on the subject of mole:
Where to buy Mexican chocolate:
The two most popular brands are Ibarra and Abuelita (Nestlé). Both brands are a staple in Mexico and widely available in the U.S. I’ve seen Ibarra chocolate locally at Perola’s (in Kensington market, 247 Augusta Ave.,Toronto), Latin America Emporium (243 Augusta Ave, Toronto) and at Dinah’s Cupboard (Yorkville, Toronto) lately, or you can always order some on-line. If you’re lucky enough to live near a Latino market, you’ll find other brands of chocolate in bars, some containing almonds, nutmeg, allspice, or other spices. Green & Black makes one called Maya Gold, which I have seen at Nature’s Emporium (Newmarket) and Whole Foods (Toronto).
Ibarra’s official website:
Abuelita’s official website:
You can substitute one ounce of semisweet chocolate plus half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon for one ounce of Mexican chocolate, and then add sugar to your recipe to taste. Or use one tablespoon of cocoa powder for every one ounce of Mexican chocolate, again adding sugar as needed.
Some are traditional, and some incorporate Mexican chocolate into more traditional Canadian/American recipes. Hopefully you will be inspired to try a few of them out on your family and friends.
Mexican hot chocolate:
http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/02/mexican-hot-chocolate-recip/ (includes a great article)
La Chispa: (a hot chocolate drink kicked up with tequila) – see article
Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème:
Suggested wine pairing: Banyuls, a medium- bodied sweet French dessert wine, ruby port, black muscat
Mexican Chocolate Chunk Cookies:
Suggested wine pairing: Banyuls or muscat
Also, why not experiment with Mexican chocolate in your ice creams, brownies, pies and cakes? The possibilities are endless.
And finally, here’s a great sampling of famed chef Rick Bayless’ various mole sauces:
Suggested mole wine pairings: Reisling, Barbaresco, pinot noir
Classic red mole:
Oaxacan black mole:
Smoky Peanut Mole Recipe with Pork Tenderloin:
Turkey in mole poblano: