Hi-Lo Foods, a small supermarket in the Latino section of Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood, devotes half an aisle to Mexican chocolate. Shopping at the Hi-Lo is an experience in sensory overload in every aisle, but for anyone with a sweet tooth, the chocolate aisle might be the most sensory of all.
I live more than an hour away, so when I do get there, I stock up. In addition to the traditional disks of Ibarra (from Guadalajara, Mexico) and Abuelita (from Nestle), the Hi-Lo sells bars, chips, cocoa mixes, and chocolate candies of every shape and size.
Traditionally, Mexican chocolate is used to make a hot chocolate drink, whipped by hand with a wooden molinillo, the indigenous form of the swizzle stick.
As is true of many things in The Perfect Pantry, I own more than one molinillo. More than two. Okay, four. Two were gifts, and two were market finds in Mexico, for a dollar or so.
Though it's a tool used for just one thing, the molinillo is prized for form as well as function. Every molinillo carver has his own style; each of the four in my collection has something different about it.
You'll taste the difference in recipes that use Mexican chocolate, too. More earthy, more nuanced, warm, sometimes a bit floral and, despite the presence of sugar in the chocolate itself, less sweet.
Try it, if you aren't already familiar with this ingredient, and let me know what you think.
What is Mexican chocolate?
Dark chocolate cacao nibs ground together with sugar and cinnamon. The texture is a bit granular.
How/where to store:
In the cupboard, in its original packaging, for a year or more. Each disk is sealed in plastic.
More facts about Mexican chocolate, and ingredient photos, on The Perfect Pantry:
Mexican chocolate (Recipe: mole colorado)
Mexican chocolate "diablo" cupcakes
I admit that, when it comes to baking, I'm not afraid to take some help from store-bought products. These cupcakes began with a whole grain devil's food chocolate muffin mix. If you want to start from scratch, you can find devil's food cupcake recipes on Food Blog Search. Mild New Mexico chile powder gives a bit of undertone, but doesn't make these cupcakes spicy. My husband Ted's co-workers inhaled these; I think you'll like them, too. Makes 10-11 cupcakes, or two dozen minis.
1 box devil's food muffin or cake mix (whole grain preferred)
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp New Mexico red chile powder
A pinch of kosher salt and fresh black pepper
2 large eggs*
3/4 cup water*
3 Tbsp canola oil*
1 disk (3.1 oz) Mexican chocolate, cut into small bits the size of chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cups.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the dry muffin mix, cinnamon and chile powder, plus salt and pepper. Add *eggs, water and oil (in whatever amounts the mix specifies). Stir until the mix is just combined, then add the chocolate bits and stir until the chips are incorporated and all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix.
Use an ice cream scoop with a release (called a "disher") to distribute the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake in the center of the oven for 16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the largest cupcake comes out clean.
Let cupcakes rest in the muffin pan for a few minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Can be stored, covered, at room temperature for 2 days, or in the freezer in ziploc bags. These cupcakes taste even better on the second day.
Other recipes that use Mexican chocolate:
Mexican chocolate ice cream, from Amanda's Cookin'
Mexican chocolate pralines, from Homesick Texan
Champurrado, from What's Cooking?
Mexican chocolate tart with cinnamon-spiced pecans, from Love and Olive Oil
Crepes with Mexican chocolate sauce, from MexConnect
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