Hello and welcome to the year of the dog. It’s chinese new year today but this isn’t going to be a themed post.
My chinese recipe didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped and I haven’t had time to refine it yet so, while it may make an appearance later in the year, today is going to be something mexican.
A mildly spicy, molé-inspired hot chocolate to warm you through the winter.
As with any molé recipe, it’s going to take a fair number of herbs and spices but, unlike most, it’s not going to take hours. This is something that you can whip up for guests in about twenty minutes, provided you have dark chocolate, a well stocked spice cupboard and some almond milk.
It’s an odd choice, since it’s usually used exclusively by vegans and the lactose intolerant, but it gives this drink the subtle roasted nut base that it needs, without being as overbearing as peanut butter or compromising the texture like actual nuts would.
In addition to 500ml of the stuff, you will need:
80g of dark chocolate (of a sort you’d want to eat, so not the 100% stuff I use for con carnes)
50g brown sugar
3 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1½ teaspoons thyme
And a dash of nutmeg
It’s a strange mix of sweet spaces and savoury herbs that makes a molé but, balanced delicately, it becomes an irresistible blend of flavours where no one thing leaps out at you.
Today, though, I’m throwing that balance off a little. Letting the chocolate speak up a bit more and become the focus of my concoction.
Because, despite everything else going on, it’s still a hot chocolate at heart.
Yet it’s only hot in the one sense since, as I hinted at in my intro. These are not hot chillies. These are the mildest three used in mexican cooking. Even the passilla, the hottest of the bunch, falls shy of a jalapeño or chipōtlé heat level.
Yet, with all three of them in there (and trust me, you do get a better depth of flavour that way), it’s going to be right near the top of what I call “mild”. A
that’s more warming than hot but won’t let you forget the chilli content all the same.
If you want it a little hotter, the guajillo shown in my photos will bump it up to a two, while bringing out the bitterness in the chocolate just a touch. As someone who prefers milk chocolate, that’s not my metaphorical cup of tea but, if you’re more keen on dark, it might well be yours.
If what your keen on is heat, though, you’re going to have to resort to much stronger peppers to make this drink actually hot.
The three in the main recipe are really just there for flavour and, while they’re actually green and red before drying, they’ve picked up a rich, earthy, almost a little charred taste as they’ve gone black. They’re going to go best with browns to complement those tones and the raisin-like fruitiness that they also provide.
Personally, I would opt for a small amount of chocolate bhutlah powder because I truly love the almost cocoa-y taste of that pepper and believe a molé is where it would be most at home.
For most people, however, I would not recommend it. It’s incredibly hard to gauge the right quantities with something so stupidly hot and more than the very tip of a teaspoon would likely be too much for the average fiery food fan.
A single slip and you’d’ve turned a delicious treat into pure torture.
So, instead of that, how about a chocolate habanero. Simply thrown in dried, like the others, to amp it up to a sensible level of hot. Probably around my three and a half, but that’s just a guess.
Making this recipe burn was never a part of my plan, so I haven’t tried to do it.
Anyway, to get yourself started, spend a minute frying the coriander seeds in a dry pan on high. Keep them moving throughout and take in the smell as they toast.
Or don’t if you’d rather. I find it a tad unpleasant, almost soapy, so I’m very glad I’m not genetically predisposed to taste that side of them.
I do find it interesting, though, the insight that simple seed frying gives me into the palate of others.
Next, when your minute’s up and they’re lightly browned, set aside the chocolate and nutmeg before adding everything else to the pan. Keep stirring and try to keep your chillies as submerged as you can. I know it’s hard when they’re so big.
Then, once bubbles begin to form in the “milk”, and not just around the other ingredients, turn down the heat and allow everything to simmer for another five minutes.
After that, remove your pan from the heat entirely and quickly break in the chocolate, stirring thoroughly to ensure an even mix.
Sieve the result into mugs and ta dah!
It’s that simple! All that’s missing now is a light sprinkling of nutmeg and maybe the bay leaf you used for a garnish. Not that that’s still there for anything but looks, in reality.
It’s rich and highly spiced, with a definite earthy fruitiness from the classic molé peppers but not very spicy. Unless you made one of the tweaks I mentioned.
Otherwise, it’s simply a decadent winter warmer for anyone who likes their chilli.
Perfect for this time of year.