With the weather still being cold especially in Houston, I was reminiscing about some of my favorite cold weather foods. One of my favorites when I was growing up was hot chocolate. However, since I grew up in a Mexican household, we would often drink Mexican hot chocolate. It is very similar to your everyday variety, except that traditional Mexican hot chocolate includes semi-sweet chocolate, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla. In Mexico, hot chocolate remains a popular national drink. Besides the instant powder form, hot chocolate of this type is commonly sold in circular or hexagonal tablets which can be dissolved into hot milk, water, or cream, and then blended until the mixture develops a creamy froth. The two most common types of Mexican chocolate sold in tablets are Abuelita and Ibarra.
If you can't find these two brands at your local grocer, you can scour the internet and find a litany of recipes that you can make on your own. The one common factor amongst all Mexican hot chocolate is that it is chocolate that has been spiced with other things not typically found in most common hot chocolate recipes.
Making hot chocolate from the tablets is really quite simple. All you need is a sauce pan, some milk, the chocolate itself and a whisk. In Mexico a wooden whisk called a molinillo is used to whip up the froth on the finished chocolate.
The first step is to heat up your milk. Back in the day hot chocolate used to be made with hot water instead (thus the title of the popular novel Like Water For Chocolate) Usually you need about 2 cups for every half tablet of chocolate. You want the milk nice and hot, about a simmer. You definitely don't want to scald the milk or have it boil over as this will give your hot chocolate a less than idle flavor. When I talked to my mom about how to make the hot chocolate, she said that my grandmother would add a little cold water(just enough to coat the bottom) to the pan as primer to help protect the milk from scalding.
As the milk comes up to temp, you can cut your chocolate into pieces as it will be quicker and easier to dissolve the chocolate in pieces instead of one big chunk. Once the milk is hot enough, you introduce the chocolate into the milk whisking rapidly to dissolve and incorporate the chocolate. Always be mindful of the heat of your milk. You still don't want it to overheat and scald or burn the chocolate. Once all the chocolate has been introduced, you can cut the heat and just continue to whisk until it completely dissolves and the chocolate begins to froth up. As soon as that happens, serve and enjoy!