My husband lived in Peru for five years. His family moved to Lima, where his father was a physician at the British-American Hospital. While they lived in Lima, the family enjoyed many Peruvian dishes: broiled scallops with butter and Parmesan cheese, Biscoche (a meringue dessert with custard filling), and rich, frothy hot chocolate.
After the family moved back to the US, my mother-in-law continued to make these recipes and served the sweet, Peruvian treat at open houses. She poured the steaming mixture into a silver pitcher to keep it warm, and topped each serving with a mound of sweetened whipped cream. This beverage was very different from the instant cocoa we drink today.
An article, “Rediscover True Hot Chocolate,” published on the Whats Cooking America website, describes the difference. Hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder, whereas hot chocolate is made from melted chunks.
According to the article, the ancient Mayans made a beverage from ground cocoa beans, water, wine, and steeped hot peppers. It was hot chocolate with a “kick.”
The Mexican version of this recipe is made from tablets that resemble hockey pucks. Though these tablets contain cinnamon, additional cinnamon is often added. The hot beverage is frothed with a wooden whisk.
You may use whole milk, evaporated milk, and even sweetened condensed milk in this recipe. It can be expanded easily. If unexpected guests drop by, just add more hot water. This works, but the chocolate does not taste as rich.
The TasteBook website has posted a recipe and it includes, of all things, oatmeal. My mother-in-law would never have added oatmeal or more hot water to her recipe, I can tell you that. She used a double boiler to make the drink. Instead of a double boiler, you can use a Pyrex bowl over simmering water. Peruvian Hot Chocolate is the perfect holiday treat. Enjoy!
3 squares of baking chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt (to bring out the sweetness)
2 cups boiling water
6 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or the seeds of a lage vanilla bean)
Sweetened whipped cream
8 cinnamon sticks
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Stir in the sugar and salt. Add the boiling water gradually, stirring constantly, and continue stirring until smooth. Cook for five minutes. Whisk in hot milk and vanilla or the seeds of a vanilla bean. Continue whisking until cocoa becomes foamy. Pour into mugs and garnish with whipped cream and a cinnamon stick. Makes 8 servings.
Copyright 2009 by Harriet Hodgson