Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas and a cup of champurrado

Recently, I stopped at one of my favorite Mexican carts to grab some tamales. As I waited in line, I noticed that most people were being served a steamy light-brown liquid out of a large cooler. As the temperature was biting and bitter, I wanted something warm, so when I ordered my tamales I pointed towards the cooler and asked for a cup of what the vendor was selling. I took a sip and it was like an extra-thick cocoa—somewhere between chocolate milk and porridge—spiced with cinnamon, vanilla and the burnt sweetness of piloncillo, a unrefined Mexican brown sugar. I asked what it was called and the man told me in Spanish, “Champurrado.”

Has this ever happened to you—you learn about something new and suddenly it seems to be everywhere? I had never heard of champurrado before, but when I went into Queens last weekend almost every taco stand had large signs saying that they had champurrado. And everywhere I went, people were all ordering cups of champurrado.

How had I missed this? I’ve been a longtime fan of Mexican hot chocolate and my molinillo—the traditional tool used to mix Mexican hot chocolate—is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets as it’s both useful and beautiful. I also love atole, which is a thick, warm drink made with masa. Champurrado is the marriage of these two—an atole flavored with Mexican chocolate. Imagine a sweet chocolate tamale made liquid and you have yourself a cup of champurrado.

It’s traditional for Mexicans to make tamales at Christmastime and often these tamales are served with a cup of champurrado. It’s also popular in the morning with churros or as part of the early-evening refreshment known as a merienda. I also learned that cups are offered to carolers as they make their rounds.

Making champurrado took a bit of trial and effort for me. I like the Ibarra brand of Mexican hot chocolate, which is made with cocoa nibs, sugar and cinnamon. It comes in discs with six discs to a box and each disc makes enough hot chocolate to serve about eight. I looked on the box to see if there was a recipe for champurrado, but there wasn’t (nor were there even instructions on how to make hot chocolate from the discs. I thought this was strange, but I reckon this is just information that everyone already knows.)

When I did a search on the subject, there were countless variations on how to make it. The problem with most of the recipes I saw, however, was that they weren’t clear on the best way to incorporate the masa harina into the hot chocolate. When I followed their methods, the masa harina solidified too fast and clogged my molinillo, which left me not only with a pot of hot chocolate filled with thick yellow lumps but a tricky mess to clean.

I then took the masa harina and mixed it with water in a blender. I added the hot chocolate and blended the two together to create a smooth beverage. Perhaps not the most traditional way to make champurrado, but at least it had the texture and consistency I had grown to love. To spice it up, I added cinnamon, vanilla and a pinch of cayenne for heat. I also added brown sugar as the masa harina does dilute a bit of the sweetness of the hot chocolate.

Now that I’ve learned about champurrado, I can’t seem to stop drinking it—I’m very thankful to the Mexican cart vendor who introduced me to this luscious liquid. I find that it makes for an especially fine breakfast as it’s thick enough with the masa harina to fill my belly and spicy enough with the cocoa, cinnamon and cayenne to awaken my mind. And while I can’t recall ever having carolers stop by my New York City apartment, they can be certain that I’d be glad to give them a cup of thick, sweet and warm champurrado.

Champurrado
Ingredients:
1 3.3 oz disc of Mexican hot chocolate
1/2 cup of masa harina
2 cups of water
2 cups of milk
1 teaspoon of cinnamon (to taste)
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
A pinch of cayenne

Method:
1. In a pot, place the hot chocolate disc in 1 cup of water and 2 cups of milk. Add the cinnamon, vanilla, brown sugar and cayenne. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted.
2. In a blender, mix the masa harina with 1 cup of water. Add the hot chocolate to the blender, and mix with the masa until smooth.
3. Return the chocolate and masa to the pan and heat on medium low, stirring occasionally until thickened. If too thick, slowly add a bit more water until it reaches your preferred consistency.
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I've got blog envy! My post on Aunt Betty's cheese ball has been included in a Bon Appetit slideshow showcasing holiday foods prepared by their favorite food bloggers. It's quite an honor and I'm in good company, as you'll also see gorgeous holiday fare prepared by a host of amazing people, such as Matt, Deb, Elise, Olga, Nicole, Sarah, David and Ilva. And a big hearty thanks goes to Bon Appetit's online editor Emily Fleischaker for organizing this amazing feature. As a fellow queso lover, she's good people!

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62 comments:

Phoo-D said...

Thank you so much for posting on this! I've never heard of Champurrado before either and it sounds like I've been missing out on one of winter's great pleasures. Mexican hot chocolate is fantastic but to have something similar that can also double as breakfast..I'm sold!

Lauren said...

You found a good tamale cart in New York?!
Please tell us where? I'm on a constant mission to find good tamales in the City and I keep coming up disappointed!!

Adam Kuban said...

Where is this cart?!?!

class factotum said...

Is this anything like churros y chocolate? http://class-factotum.journalspace.com/?entryid=2019&h=churros%20y%20chocolate

How do I find it in Wisconsin???

lisaiscooking said...

Delicioso! A perfect beverage with Christmas cookies.

julia said...

i must add to the frantic questions: tamale cart?! where?!

Anonymous said...

Is there anything I can substitute for the masa harina? maybe regular corn meal? what if I just left it out?

-Emily

Sarcasm is just one more service I offer. said...

Wow, I live here in Texas and I haven't heard of it. How can this be?lol It sounds like I have been missing out. Thanks for the info. I will definately be keeping an eye out for it now when I'm out and about. :o)

Bee said...

Is this a drink or a meal? It does sound lovely and warming - albeit something I'd rather buy than make! (I'd love to know how the tamale cart got their masa incorporated.)

BTW, I made your Dr. Pepper peanut brittle last night. Big hit! (Mine wasn't creamy, though; it was exactly the texture of a typical brittle.) I liked the little bite of cayenne.

MorenaTejana said...

I want to make tamales for Christmas. It would be a good idea to make Champurrado as well.

P.S. The singular form of "tamales" is "tamal". English-speakers have been incorrectly calling them "tamale" for centuries, but a native speaker of Spanish will tell you in a second that it is really "tamal".

Thanks for this recipe!

Culinarywannabe said...

Heck, I'll come caroling for a cup of this!

Jen and Ed said...

Ok, I'm lame, but where can I get a disk of mexican hot chocolate? I live in Denver so we'll definitly have it around. I just have to know where to look.

The Allen's said...

Ok, you so have to come home for Christmas and make this...and see everyone too of course! We are having mexican food for our Christmas dinner!!!

Brave Sir Robin said...

How is it that I've never heard of this? It does sound good!!

We prefer Mexican Hot Chocolate here at the castle, and I just love the sound of that.

Are the Tamales in NYC any good?

I just found a new tamale man a few weeks ago. Down here, that's like finding a good shrimp man.

Once you do, you keep in touch, and keep him happy.

BrSpiritus said...

Sounds interesting. Here in the Philippines we have Tableya, kinda the poor cousin to Mexican Hot Chocolate. The tabs have no cinnamon in them so I usually add a piece of cinnamon bark when I make some Tsokolate. Will have to try Champurrado but masa harina is nonexistant here so will have to figure something else out to thicken it.

class factotum said...

Jen and Ed,

You can find Mexican hot chocolate at a Mexican grocery store, of which there must be at least one in Denver. Sometimes it's even in the regular store -- a common brand is Abuelita.

Olivia said...

I can't drink thick liquids - so no French chocolat chaud either BUT I do love Aztec spiced hot chocolate of normal consistency.

Farmer Jen said...

Sounds good. I've never had this or Mexican hot chocolate. Never knew the chocolate came in discs either. I will have to search for it locally and give it a try.

Tommy said...

I would absolutely love to have a Mexican cart to buy food from in Toronto. A cart, a taco truck, anything, would be a nice alternative to the hotdog vendors currently alowed to sell street food here.

Whenever I am in NYC, I try to sample as many carts as possible, hoping one day our city officials will see that there is more to food carts than precooked hotdogs and sausages.

Being able to buy a hot champuraddo in the middle of our winter would be a huge score as well.

Jen said...

I have never heard of this either,sounds wonderful. I will have to keep my eyes open for this now.

Brian said...

This sounds a lot like warm horchata. Ever had?

http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/horchata.htm

One of my favorite things to drink with some spicy food (besides margaritas). Or pupusas!

Keep feeding me!

Brian
www.discovertaste.blogspot.com

Donbeto said...

Not knowing how, I landed at your site almost an hour ago and became addicted to your delicious recipes and to your not less delicious writing.
As a mexican living in Monterrey it should be a shame to discover in a texan's blog how to fix, for example, a good pipián but I decided to be guided by pleasure.
My frecuent trips to McAllen include, allways, to buy pork sausages for breakfast. Maybe now, with your respective recipe, i can spent less money.
Un Abrazo

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Phoo-D--It's pretty incredible--I hope you get to try it!

Lauren--My favorite tamale carts are on Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights.

Adam--Go to Jackson Heights and you'll find a ton of tamale carts. Also E. 116th Street in Harlem.

Class Factotum--The chocolate is different than the Spanish chocolate--this is more granular, less smooth and custardy.

Lisa is cooking--It's perfect with Christmas cookies.

Julia--There many tamale carts in Jackson Heights.

Emily--I don't know if corn meal would work, but you could certainly try it.

Sarcasm--I know! Where as this been all of our lives?

Bee--It can be both! I make mine extra, extra thick, but it's usually a thinner drink. And I suspect that the brittle texture depends on how long you cook it.

Morena Tejana--Thanks for the Spanish lesson!

Culinarywannabe--Come on over! I'd love to have carolers

Jen and Ed--You can get it at most Whole Foods, Mexican grocers and online at Mexgrocer.com or Amazon.com

The Allens--Ha! I don't know if I'll make it home for Christmas, but I hope to get home soon. And we can definitely make this!

Brave Sir Robin--You can get some good tamales--though the fillings are usually different than Tex-Mex tamales.

BrSpiritus--You can try corn meal, I don't know how that will work, though.

Olivia--Isn't it wonderful?

Farmer Jen--Oh! You'll have to try it!

Tommy--I'm surprised there's not one taco truck in Toronto. I bet that changes soon.

Jen--I bet you'll love it!

Brian--It's similar, but not quite the same as that's made with rice. But I do love horchata!

Donbeto--Welcome! And I hope you enjoy the recipes!

Amy said...

How funny I just got back from Mexico where my MIL was drinking champurrado! I think she can have my share though....

twobarkingdogs said...

How yummy! And I know what you mean about the phenomenon of not knowing or hearing something and then all of a suddent its everywhere! Happens to me a lot.

I am having a cookbook giveaway at my blog. Everyone welcome!

TexanNewYorker said...

I'm with Culinarywannabe -- I'll round up a whole caroling group if we get champurrado out of the deal! woo!

Yaya said...

I absolutely love champurrado! My mom makes it around this time of year as well. She also uses the blender & a colander to make the masa and water mixture a little less grainy.

Will have to make some this weekend for my husband's family :-)

Mrs. L said...

Though I have heard of it, I never knew exactly what it was. Thanks for the lesson!

Stacey said...

After reading your blog this morning I was ready for cup. I was shopping in Siloam Springs AR today and found everything I needed! I am so ready for a cup! Thanks for the wonderful post and your wonderful blog!!!

Margaret in Fort Worth said...

MMMMH. Champurrado.
Although I love my molinillo too, for the way it looks, what really does the job for this is one of the hand-held immersion blenders. Not romantic, but very efficient.

mari said...

Just found this blog via the bon appetit award link (congratulations). Mexican hot chocolate ahhhhhhhh. I do have a confession to make though, i make it with instant cocoa and vanilla extract. It works, but i'd drink the stuff pictured above over it any day.

Mike said...

Ohhhhhh LORD do I feel guilty about rippin' open a pouch of Swiss Miss.....shame on me.

I made a similiar drink years ago....I do hearby state, being of sound mind and body, to make said drink before the calendar turns.

Lisa (dinner party) said...

Another great, posst Lisa. I want a cup of this now!

Also, congrats on BA!
Lisa

Helene said...

I guess I'm missing something because I never heard of it before. I'm glad you blogged about it.

Anonymous said...

In Philippines,we make our champurado w/ sticky rice,or regular rice will do.Can also use oatmeal.

Foodista.com said...

Mmmm... I've had this before and Its definitely great to have for breakfast! Yummy!

JayBob said...

Most mexican groceries or the hispanic/ethnic aisle at alot of supermarkets will have Ibarra chocolate. It is also great in coffee. Use 2 wedges/cup.

The directions for mexican hot chocolate are on the bottom of the box. Basically, use 2 wedges of Ibarra per cup of hot milk. Blend until smooth. A inexpensive hand/imulsion blender works great. Add fresh whipped cream and a cinammon stick if you wish or sprinkle the whipped cream w/cinammon or grated chocolate.

Ibarra chocolate can be added to sweetened condensed milk and melted in a double boiler for a mexican chocolate sauce.

One last thought, if any one has any of Rick Bayless' cook books, it may be in it(champurrado).

Elizabeth said...

Wanna know the secret to the traditional Champurrado .Well let me start off by telling you that the famous drink comes from Guerrero, Mexico and that once Cacao was introduced to Mexico the people would make it a drink to serve to there gods. But enough of the history for now the best way to make Champurrado is to first mix the masa mix with **cold ** water , preferably mix it with your hand to dissolve any lumps and then added to the hot not boiling mix of milk,chocolate ,sugar or piloncillo , ground cinnamon, and vanilla mix. Make sure you use a stainer as you are adding the cold mix just in case any lumps are left. Just make sure you don't mix a lot of masa to the cold water. A little goes a long way and what I mean by that is once the ingredients start to boil the mix will thicken by itself. My mom made Champurrado every winter but thats not the only Mexican drink that Mexican like during the winter and holidays. The famous “Ponche” meaning punch served hot is a popular and delicious drink and also my favorite but thats a whole other recipe.

Ted said...

My Mother-in Law makes this, but she calls it atole'. Good stuff on a cold night.

Ted said...

Never mind. I just realized that I grazed over the section of your post where you mention atole'. Boy, is my face red.

heidi said...

oh I wish I could drink some champurrado, even thought I am not a big fan of it, I prefer hot chocolate. Def will kill for some tamales verdes or rojos and a hot cup of chocolate or champurrado.

btw: someone posted hot horchata: No way, not look or taste alike (champurrado) at all.We mexicans,do not drink it hot. Never.

Jesse said...

Wow- never heard of it!! I've got mountains of masa harina sitting in my fridge (for a reason I can no longer remember, but can't bear to toss it). Looks like I'm making this!

MODman said...

I think I am going to have to make this. The weather is quite cold here an this would compliment my pazole perfectly!!!

Kelly O said...

Cannot wait to make this when we have tree decorating and tamales on Friday!!

Claudia said...

How else have you been washing down your tamales with? Chapurrado is a must! Girl, I thought you had more street cred than that. Though I am glad you finally made it to the promise land. Enjoy our little Mexican gift of champurrado.

Anonymous said...

one of my hometown favs from texas

Ed Alex said...

Hi

Im Mexican, i live in Monterrey (north of the coutry).

I just found your blog, dont ask me why.. i was looking for anything in internet... and found it.

Have you tried adding the skin of 1/4 or 1/2 orange to the boiling chocolate-milk-cinnamon-everything mix that is in the pot? It adds a really good flavor to the champurrado! Many people in my region adds orange skin to it.

Also, i dont know if you can find it in the US, but there is a brand of chocolate "Popular"... thats better for champurrado than "Abuelita".
Abuelita is great brand... but for champurrado u can try the Popular brand. Tastes better coz is less sweet, more chocolate.

I think i'll become a fan of your blog, i've seen some stuff i liked.

Saludos desde México! :)


Eddie.

Lily said...

Lisa I want to thank you for posting up the Champurrado blog. I absolutely enjoyed every word of it. Atole of any kind, is the best warm drink ever for those of us who dislike coffee. The warm thick sensation of the champurrado making it's way into an empty stomach on a cold morning is the most satisfying feeling ever!! Thanks a million for making a blog dedicated to Champurrado, and for the recipe. I too share your experience.
I was just wondering, if there are any other substitutes that can be used as a thickener, instead of masa?

Lily ; )

versailles-rose said...

There's a wonderful little coffee shop in New Rochelle (outside of NYC) that sells Champurrado. OMG. SO GOOD!

Andy said...

In the Philippines we use glutinous rice (locally called sticky rice)to make champorado.

This is a fairly accurately video of how it's made:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXFGbKEisI0

Dazy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
angela said...

Just made this and umm.... will definitely be adding it to my dessert menu for the season. Thank you so much.

rudy said...

thankyou i live in alaska and tjis champurrado will help with the cold weather thank thanks

Debra said...

Would it be too much of a culture clash to serve this Christmas morning with poppyseed kolaches?

Rocio said...

There is a difference between atole and champurrado. Champurado is thickened with masa. This makes for a grainy texture.

The atole is thickened with corn starch. This makes a smooth but thick liquid. Both are yummy. I crave them, as do my kids, on cold mornings like today.


I LOVE Mexican food.

Marcos El Malo said...

I had the same experience this year. I'd never before seen champurrado and suddenly this holiday season it was everywhere!

Robin said...

Homesick Texan, would you happen to have a recipe to a good authentic Horchata? I'm on a mission!

Christine said...

OMG. Christmas is not Christmas without Champurrado. I love the stuff!!!! It's almost sacred at Christmastime. When my husband craves it during the rest of the year I feel like I'm committing a sin. LOL.. Love it!!!

Karla M. said...

Hi I arrived super late to the champurrado fiesta!!
I'm from Sonora, Mexico. And I guess we, in the north, have a very different variation of Champurrado. Champurrado in the north is very popular in October for the "Day of the Dead". The one we prepare includes water, chocolate, masa, cinnamon, clove, anis seed and vanilla. Something I'm really sure of is that Champurrado DOES NOT contains milk, otherwise it would be called Atole. I'm going to ask my father the recipe and post it here as soon as I can. I am not a big fan of Champurrado, or at least not as much as my New Yorker husband.

Anonymous said...

I'm drinking Champurrado right now! I love it. I drink cups and cups of it. It's so delicious!

Jen said...

In the Philippines, there's a popular breakfast dish called champorado that must descend from this. Other than the presence of chocolate and some kind of grain, though, it's not very similar. Champorado is malagkit rice (sticky rice, like mochigome) cooked with tableya chocolate, which is like Mexican chocolate tablets, usually topped with a swirl of sweetened condensed milk. A lot of people like to eat it with dried fish for some reason.

Anonymous said...

In new york city in the corner of E 116 and Lexington there's a good cart with tamales, champurrado and arroz con leche. For me they are the best in the city, from Tuesdays to sunday 7-11 am , on monday there is another cart but there are no good

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