painting shows four cups of atole with chocolate and other ingredients

Atole with Chocolate. 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

Because it is April 15 and I am still working on a giant art inventory for my tax returns I’m giving you a quick and easy recipe for atole with chocolate, good for those chilly mornings or chilly evenings of spring. I made it for the first time on a cold April morning of 2010 when we had had a bag of masa harina sitting around for a year or two and Jacqueline Higuera McMahan had published a recipe for atole in the San Francisco Chronicle. McMahan’s recipe called for added cornstarch, but I think the masa thickens it adequately by itself.

The first time I made this I used a Oaxaca chocolate bar containing chilies. Later I made it with Sharffen Berger bittersweet and added some pasilla chile powder. You can make it without chile if you don’t like the kick.

Atole makes a good, warming breakfast drink, a heavier form of hot chocolate. It would be good to serve at a holiday party. I’ve thought of adding more masa and thickening it into a pudding, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Atole with Chocolate (4 Servings)

Film a large saucepan with water

Heat over medium heat 1 quart of milk

Add:

5 oz. chopped chocolate

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup masa harina

1 cinnamon stick

1 vanilla bean, split open.

a pinch of salt, if desired

powdered chiles to taste

Whisk this until the chocolate melts, until everything blends and until it thickens to your liking. You will need to cook it for at least five minutes to cook the masa, which will expand as it cooks. Fish the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick out before serving, or just push them to the side with your serving ladle so that they continue to flavor whatever you don’t drink immediately.

Food Notes: Masa harina is the flour Mexicans use to make corn tortillas. Look for it in your Mexican grocer or online. If you find this too sweet, add cocoa powder to a small portion and add it back into the pan, or add some bitter chocolate or some brewed coffee. Next time use a darker chocolate or scant the sugar to achieve less sweet results. I’ve been thinking about using a tablet of Mexican chocolate to make it next time with some bitter chocolate added. For the ultimate in decadence, serve it with a float of barely sweetened whipped cream. Drink this for breakfast and you may even have the strength to complete your tax returns on time. Good luck! We have two extra days this year.

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