Ah! España! Home of the great navigators and colonizers like Christopher Columbus and Don Quixote.
The other day, while eating breakfast, I reflected upon my scrumptious omelet and thought of Spain. Wishing I had something a little more than water with my meal I began thinking about Spanish breakfasts. Lo and behold a classic Spanish breakfast came to mind: chocolate caliente and churros! I know you’ll love making chocolate caliente as much as I did. I actually made it four times in the past few days just to experiment and get the flavor just right (and because it is ridiculously good!). I’m still working on finishing that breakfast properly, but I can’t seem to get my churros to taste (or look) like those you’d find at a bar or a street vendor. (Hold off on those a little longer, then you’ll truly have a remarkable Spanish dish!)
What amazes me about hot chocolate (in general) is how much it changes from country to country. In Italy, you’ll find cioccolata calda which is very similar to the Spanish chocolate caliente in texture. The ingredients, however, are quite different. Each country in Europe loves its hot chocolate, each one having its own unique twist on the recipe. What really surprises me is how much it changes when you go to the United States. In the US, you buy some Nesquik (or another brand) and plop a few spoonfuls of chocolate mix into warm milk (maybe even toss in a marshmallow or two). It blows my mind to see how much it changes! So, you’ll be sticking with the good stuff now. Chocolate caliente will make your mouth water every time you think about making yourself a nice cup of hot chocolate!
Believe it or not, but chocolate caliente is actually remarkably easy to make. If you’ve ever made wassail or gravy (yeah, I know. Those are completely unrelated and I don’t recommend you mix those two together… Yuck) then you have a great idea on how to make this wonderful treat!
Let’s begin by gathering together our ingredients:
Grab the following ingredients from your panty, shelf, microwave or wherever you keep your cooking supplies: 500 ml milk (I found that whole milk makes the chocolate caliente very creamy), 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, a pinch of salt, and 4 ounces (120 grams) of dark unsweetened chocolate (bittersweet works too, I prefer it because you don’t have to add sugar). If you like, you may add a teaspoon of cinnamon, sugar (to taste), and/or cacao powder. I will be adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to my chocolate caliente, I like the flavor that it adds. (Many Spaniards also add cinnamon so you can consider it a traditional ingredient.)
To begin, let’s take our dark chocolate and cut it up into fine pieces. The finer the better, but if you like, cutting it to the consistency of mine won’t do you any harm or ruin the hot chocolate.
Once you have the chocolate chopped up, pour the milk into a small pot. Mix in the cornstarch, salt, and if you choose to add cinnamon add it now. You don’t want any chunks. Otherwise, it’ll be like the time my Mom first gave me a bowl of Cream of Wheat for breakfast… Well, ok. She gave me a pot and taught me to do it. I can’t imagine any breakfast as nasty as Cream of Wheat when it gets chunky. Yuck. Ok, well back to the breakfast food we’re making!
Heat up the milk until you see wisps of steam. Now is the time to add the chocolate. Stir occasionally and keep the milk at a constant temperature. The chocolate will melt and mix quite nicely with the rest of the ingredients.
There are two big things that can go wrong here. First, the milk gets too hot and changes the flavor. Second, and probably the most important, the chocolate changes phase. Scientifically speaking, chocolate can undergo a few phase changes when heated and cooled (more on that here). What you need to look out for is a shimmering layer of chocolate on top. Ok, I’ll admit I’m no food scientist, but I think that this is what is happening. The chocolate begins shifting phase and the shimmer reflects the change. Or it could be a layer of milk skin that develops. Whatever happens, keep a look out for that layer! (Whatever happened, I definitely did it while trying to take the pictures. So, now you can see what I’m talking about. It still tastes good.)
Now, as you stir you’ll notice the chocolate caliente thicken. I tried to capture what it looks like on camera, but gosh darn it my phone’s camera isn’t that good (you may have noticed some super long images on the last post… who knows where I put my camera charger… but hey, I could make excuses all day and you’ll see it thicken).
Anyway, once you see it thicken keep stirring for another minute or so. Then, remove it from the heat. Pour or scoop it into your favorite mug. Snap! You have your very own Authentic Spanish chocolate caliente! Enjoy!
Here you go! Eat it with a few churros or after a hike through the snow!
I hope you loved this dish as much as I did! And hey, if you have any thoughts (maybe you saw it made slightly differently) please leave a comment!