With all this crummy snow and ice I thought I would try and take our minds off of the weather with a recipe and some fun facts.. :)
When Christopher Columbus landed in what is now present day Cuba, he didn't find India, he didn't find peppercorns, he really didn't find anything he was supposed to. Instead what he did find were fiery chilies, and a strange bean like thing that some of the locals were using as currency.
Later Cortez witnessed the Aztecs drinking a heavily spiced concoction of ground caco seeds, chilies, vanilla and annato. Believed to fight fatigue, the drink would be consumed by nobility and priests and Montezuma himself.
The following is my version, a bit sweeter than the bitter drink first consumed over 1700 years ago since sugar as we know it didn't exist and... well, a story for another time. :)
Mexican Hot Chocolate
Makes 2 cups
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup GOOD coco powder
1/4cup granulated sugar*
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (if you don't like the spice you can use ancho chili powder, or omit it all together)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream for topping-optional
In a small heavy saucepan combine the milk, vanilla, and sugar and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved and the milk has come to a very bare simmer.
Combine the coco powder and spices together in a small bowl with a whisk and when the milk/sugar/vanilla mix is scalded, ladle a small amount of the milk (around a 1/4c cup) into the coco powder mix and whisk until all the lumps have dissolved. Then add the dissolved coco mix back into the rest of the heated milk, serve and enjoy.
* You can use a sugar substitute like Splenda but do not add it to the milk mixture, add it to the coco powder mix instead.