While we celebrated Halloween this week, on the second of November the Mexicans celebrated el Dia de los Muertos. I don’t want to take a turn toward the macabre here, but these holidays send a shiver of electricity down my spine for all the supernatural events they invoke. Tangled dreams, gnarled roots, gossamer spider webs, bring me all of it. The beautiful skeletal creatures (the katrinas), twisted statues, and dark arts culminate in an artistic and haunting display over a backdrop of fallen leaves and crisp, cool air. Given that I’ve spent so much time working in Mexico this year I thought I’d come at you with a Mexican treat for the occasion. Like a witch in her lair, I’ve been tending to this dark brew, both rich and sweet at the core.
Dia de los muertos focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. When the souls of your loved ones return for the night, you better have something good waiting for them. My ofrenda is this champurrado. It is a chocolate atole (a hot corn-based beverage) made with bitter chocolate, milk, and masa for thickening. It’s thicker than most hot chocolates and is served to warm the souls that have made the journey home.
Don’t confuse it with Mexican hot chocolate. This is kind of a breakfast drink, like a smooth porridge that combines corn flour, cinnamon sticks, water, piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar), vanilla and optional chocolate or fruit. The mixture is stirred and heated before serving.
This champurrado is perfectly suited for cold weather. I like to think it warms the souls of the living too in a cozy breakfast-type deal or dessert because we all know that breakfast and dessert are interchangeable. Oh and also, I’m so excited to see the new Bond film tomorrow! It was filmed in Mexico while I was working there and it’ll be cool to see how they used those giant, rolling well-lit skeletons that zipped through the zocalo. I hope you’re all having a great week. Que disfruten!
CHAMPURRADO (CHOCOLATE ATOLE)
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup masa harina (corn flour)
- 1 cups water
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, grated
- 1 cinnamon stick
Heat the milk and chocolate in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the chocolate. When chocolate is completely dissolved, remove from the heat and set aside to keep warm.
Mix the masa harina with the water in another saucepan; place over low heat, add the cinnamon stick, and cook until the mixture has thickened and the masa becomes translucent.
Add the chocolate milk and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and simmer for a few minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve the champurrado hot in cups or mugs.