Loco for Mexican cacao

There is a rich diversity in Mexican foods that reflect the diversity of Mexican people. One of the most brilliant discoveries in the world comes from the Aztecs – chocolate. The people were passionate about it. Spices were mixed with cacao beans and served as a drink for leaders and those of nobility. The heavenly taste of chocolate is celebrated in much of the world. However, Mexican chocolate kicks it up a notch. It has a rich flavor and is made with an assortment of spices sold in bars, discs, powder and syrup.

Here are a few Mexican chocolate recipes that go with a story on Wednesday’s page B2 of the LENS section.

MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE (Champurrado)
Mt. Lebanon, Pa., elementary-school Spanish teacher Tania M. Conte sent this recipe home with her students, noting that Abuelita brand chocolate can be found at some grocery stores. If you don’t have a molinillo, you can use a regular whisk.
2 cups milk
4 wedges of Mexican chocolate, or 2 quarter tablets
Put 2 cups milk in a small saucepan on low heat. Warm the milk gradually. Don’t let it boil.
Unwrap a Mexican chocolate tablet. Cut/break off the wedges u

Edgar Alvarez adds a disk of Abuelita Mexican chocolate to the milk and water mixture he was using the for hot chocolate he was preparing at his Pittsburgh stand. Photo by Larry Roberts/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

sing the dull side of a knife.
Put the chocolate in the warm milk and let the wedges soften for about 30 seconds.
Use the wide end of the molinillo — or your whisk — to gently mash the chocolate.
Then use the molinillo or whisk to stir the chocolate milk.
When steam begins to rise from the milk, spin the molinillo (or whisk) briskly back and forth in the milk to create tiny bubbles that gang up together to become froth.
Carefully pour hot chocolate into cups and enjoy!
Serves 2.
— Tania M. Conte
———
MEXICAN CHOCOLATE CAKE
This simple but exotic loaf cake recipe comes from the first cookbook from Aliya LeeKong, a former professional cook who has an Indo-Pakistani and Tanzanian background and who is married to “a guy from Brooklyn, whose family comes from Trinidad by way of Venezuela, Spain and China.” It’s a very interesting book with some very interesting recipes, many of them vegetarian like this one.
LeeKong writes that she has “a serious love affair going with Mexican chocolate,” which made her go on “a rampage, sneaking it into desserts whenever I could and even going so far as to add it to my morning coffee on occasion (ridiculous, I know). A pastry chef I work with looked down his nose when I told him I was doing a loaf cake, but I adore them! Loaf cakes are unassuming and, when decadent enough like this one, an unexpected bite of seemingly casual luxury. This one is rich and moist, with melted bites of Mexican chocolate and that kick of cinnamon.”
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
¾ cup creme fraiche, softened at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces Mexican chocolate, chopped finely
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch loaf pan and set aside.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or use a hand mixer, and cream together the butter, creme fraiche and the sugars until light and fluffy using medium speed. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is fully incorporated. With the mixer back on, add eggs one at a time and vanilla extract.
Reduce speed on the mixer and add 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by 1/3 of the chocolate. Repeat twice and then scrape down. Mix again briefly only so that the batter is just uniform — be careful not to overmix.
Transfer batter to the loaf pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Let cool on a rack before unmolding — run a thin knife along the sides if it’s sticking. Serve garnished with confectioners’ sugar.
— “Exotic Table: Flavors, Inspiration, and Recipes from Around the World — to Your Kitchen “ by Aliya LeeKong (Adams, Nov. 2013, $35)

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    Kory Hansen, a graduate of California State University, Fresno, began work at The Record in 2004 as a page designer and Graphics Editor. Kory currently lives in Brentwood with his wife and two sons, and spends entirely too much time chasing peacocks ... Read Full
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