What would you think of a hot chocolate prepared with sweetened condensed milk, Brandy, heavy cream, butter, spices, and whipped cream? Tempting or too much? That was the very first recipe that I struggled to prepare when I first moved to Lima, only to surprise myself by almost dying. Even though it was delicious, it wasn’t a very wise choice for a Christmas breakfast, and to make things worse, I was expecting my first baby, so you can imagine the havoc it created in my sensitive pregnant body.
The recipe was given to me by a good friend –maybe she was not that good, after all- (just kidding!). And another lady I met, who was from Cusco, told me that her nanny used to make a very thick hot chocolate for her and her siblings, so thick that a spoon could stand in the beverage like in chocolate pudding. The last touch of her recipe was a generous teaspoon of butter! I was being introduced to the Christmas spirit and costumes of my new country, and finding many amazing things.
Hot chocolate has become a Christmas season tradition, and all over Peru there are gatherings called “chocolatadas”, where hot chocolate is served along with panetón (panettone) or some other goodies. No fruitcake or other heavy desserts. Maybe some little sandwiches and cookies.
When I was the director of one of the best cooking schools in Lima, on the last day of classes before Christmas break, we would have a lovely chocolatada with the students, talking and sharing experiences and funny stories. However, I sometimes wished I could have a big glass of iced water instead, because Lima is very hot at this time of the year; but despite the hot and steamy weather, everybody tries to keep this tradition alive drinking a good, thick hot chocolate. In other parts of the country, where the weather is freezing cold almost year round, they can delight themselves with this comforting beverage almost every day. Here is the recipe to my favourite chocolate caliente (hot chocolate):
Hot chocolate (serves 4)
- 4 oz chocolate de taza, or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 3 cups water
- 4 cloves
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 1 can unsweetened evaporated milk
- Sugar to taste
- 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg, grated
- 1 cup whipped cream (optional)
To make the infusion, in a heavy saucepan bring the water to boil with the cinnamon and cloves, for 10 minutes.
Add the chopped chocolate, stirring until melted. Add evaporated milk, sugar to taste, nutmeg, and vanilla essence.
Serve immediately with a dollop of whipped cream if desired, and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon or grated chocolate.
Note: if you like your chocolate more thick, add 1 teaspoon cornstarch diluted in 1 tablespoon water, before turning off the heat. If something lighter is preferred, add more hot water or regular milk.