Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review - La Soledad Canela Hot Chocolate

I had a tough time deciding which Mexican hot chocolate to review first. There are a ton of them! I wanted to review a very authentic one first, but I also wanted to introduce them the way I was introduced to them. It turns out, the first one I ever had was a pretty darn authentic one, La Soledad Canela flavored hot chocolate.

Unlike most American packaged hot chocolates, this isn't a powder mix, it's a solid chocolate tablet. That's how most traditional Mexican hot chocolates comes, as a tablet. Another staple of Mexican hot chocolates is cinnamon. They almost all seem to have it, which certainly isn't a bad thing. And a few of them often have nutty flavors, as well.

La Soledad makes quite a few other varieties of hot chocolate, but what I have here is the canela (Spanish for cinnamon).

a Mexican company, located in Oaxaca (wa-HOCK-a), Mexico. Oaxaca is known for cacao, used in mole sauces and as a beverage. So, yeah, this is good, authentic stuff. 
My girlfriend discovered this hot chocolate while doing a project with some Mexican and Aztec influences. She wanted to serve Mexican hot chocolate at the presentation, and found a place in Eagle Rock, CA, called Cacao Mexicatessan that sold this. Not only do they serve amazing food there, but they sell all kinds of imported products from Mexico, mostly cacao things.

The chocolate tablets are molded with La Soledad's logo and individually foil wrapped.

As usual, when I have a big chunk of chocolate to melt into some milk or water, I chop it up pretty thoroughly. Most Mexican chocolate tablets have a coarse, grainy texture. You may find that it doesn't melt completely, leaving grains at the bottom of the cup. That could be cinnamon, or perhaps it's the stone ground cacao. Whatever it is, it's fine to eat it if you want to. If it's the cacao, it's actually good for you!

Let's talk about another thing the Mexicans do with their hot chocolate - frothing!

Frothing is whipping the chocolate until a foam covers the surface. Before the Spanish reached Mexico in the 16th century, hot chocolate drinks were frothed by pouring them from one pitcher to another over and over. The Spaniards then invented the wooden tool pictured here, the molinillo. You hold the top of it between your palms and spin it back and forth, and it whips the liquid up into a perfect, yummy froth.

I have another frother, an electric one with its own pitcher, and I'll highlight that in a future blog post. For now, I wanted to keep it traditional and do it the old fashioned way.

La Soledad Canela hot chocolate is nice and light, a perfect breakfast or afternoon hot chocolate. In Mexico, hot chocolate is traditionally served with pan dulce, which are sweet breads that come in many varieties. I even found a great handmade and painted Mexican mug!
I couldn't find La Soledad on Amazon, so as far as I know, the only way to get it is to swing by Cacao Mexicatessan and pick some up, or to order it from their website, which requires that you email them about the products you want.

Do you know of any Mexican hot chocolates? Which is your favorite? I have an entire cupboard full, and I'll get to reviewing them all eventually, but please comment below and let me know your favorites. Or even better, a recipe!

La Soledad's website

Monday, April 1, 2013

Recipe - "White Hot" Hot Chocolate

When it comes to eating chocolate, I'm not a huge fan of white chocolate. It's ok when there are other ingredients mixed in, but by itself, I don't know, it's just too sweet or something. But this recipe is really great! It's light and spicy and creamy, everything you'd want from a great hot chocolate.

Is white chocolate even real chocolate? Technically, no, I don't think it is. Ok, what is it, then? Good quality white chocolate is mainly cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. Cocoa butter is the fat content of a cacao bean. When cacao liquor is pressed with tremendous pressure, the cocoa butter is separated out, leaving the solids behind. Those solids are ground further to become cocoa powder. The cocoa butter is often added to processed chocolate to increase its smoothness and creaminess. Cheap white chocolate sometimes has no cocoa butter at all, and can be mostly vegetable fats and sugar.

I'm using Godiva White Chocolate with Vanilla Bean. It's a great, high quality white chocolate, and the vanilla bean right in the bar adds a little extra flavor. 

You can see in the picture above where the heat in the "white hot" name comes from - chili powder! There's also a bit of cinnamon to balance it out a bit. It takes a bit of heat off the chili and a bit of sweetness away from the chocolate, so everything plays nice together.

The ingredient list:

1 3/4 cup milk (2% or whole)
5 tbsp chopped white chocolate
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp chili powder

Put the milk on medium heat on the stove. Once it's just about to boil, add in the white chocolate and spices and whisk until fully melted. Turn the heat down a little and let it steep for a few minutes. Even though we added in what seems to be a lot of white chocolate, you'll find the hot chocolate still has milk flavor, the white chocolate not being overpowering at all.

This drink has some bite to it, too! It's not too bad, just enough to be pleasant. When I first made this and added in that much chili powder, I really thought it would be hotter than it is. I really like this one, much more than I thought I would, considering that I don't really enjoy white chocolate. And it's a nice break from regular hot chocolates.

This is a good one to experiment with on your own, as well. Add less or more chili powder, or try cayenne pepper powder or some other kind of ground pepper. Maybe try adding some vanilla extract to really bring out those flavors in the white chocolate. Garnish it with sprinkles of chili powder or cinnamon, or even cocoa powder. Now that I think about it, maybe this drink would be perfect with some chocolate marshmallows!