Mexican chocolate is made from dark, bitter chocolate mixed with sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes nuts. The end result is a “grainy” less smooth product. Chocolate is frequently purchased in “disks” although it is also available in bars and syrups.
History And Lore
The botanical name for chocolate is Theobroma, which means “food of the gods”. The name is appropriate for the importance of chocolate in the Mexican culture. Chocolate is among the many things the Spaniards acquired from the Aztecs. The native Aztec people made a variety of drinks made of chocolate combined with honey, nuts, seeds, and spices. The drink was used in rituals by priests as well as nobleman. While many historic references are made to the Aztecs and chocolate, the Aztecs actually adopted the use of chocolate from the earlier Mayan Culture.
Traditional Uses For Mexican Chocolate
Hot Drinks – The most traditional use for chocolate was for hot beverages such as Atole, Champurrado and Mexican Hot Chocolate.
Atole is frequently served with tamales. Champurrado is also served as a dessert with Churros or a sweet bread call Pan Dulce. These drinks are whipped up using a wooden whisk called a molinillo (moh-lin-nyee-oh) (or a blender). The whisk is held between the palms of your hands. Then using a back and forth motion the whisk moves back and forth in the mixture until it is aerated and frothy.
Tejate – A Oaxaca specialty. An interesting cold drink is made of dark chocolate, corn masa, cocoa flowers, then marinated and frothed. (See photograph on left).
Mole (moh-Lay) – A sauce that varies in content depending on the region. The traditional red mole contains chilies, garlic, nuts, tomato, spices and chocolate. It is important to note that the amount of chocolate is very small and enhances but does not overpower the sauce. The sauce is served with turkey or chicken. Mole does not use the Mexican flavored chocolate but instead a dark bitter, unspiced version.
The Molinillo (Chocolate Stirrer)
The molinillo was actually an invention of the Spaniards. The tool was used to froth chocolate which in the early days was not processed and defatted and tended to clump.