Spanish hot chocolate, 'chocolate caliente', is a wonderfully thick, rich and delicious treat. It's the traditional partner to freshly made churros, but it's also perfect just on it's own, especially on a cold day.
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I don't have a particularly sweet tooth, and I can never eat a lot of chocolate, but I'll be the first to admit, I have a soft spot for the hot chocolate they serve in Spain. It was an early discovery when I lived there, and served as a pick-me-up on more than one occasion.
What makes the Spanish version that little bit different is that is is relatively thick. This is partly because it is used as much as a dipping sauce for churros, a kind of stick-like donut, as to drink.
For the observant among you, you'll notice that these are, in fact, Mexican churros rather than the Spanish form. I'm afraid I'm not set up for deep frying here to make my own and that's all I could find.
The Spanish version are often thicker, less even and more coiled rather than straight. But to be honest, if they good ones of either kind, I definitely wouldn't say no.
What makes Spanish hot chocolate thick?
The thickness here comes from cornstarch (cornflour), just as is in another Spanish favorite, crema Catalana. Combined with the real chocolate, it makes a thick and luscious drink.
Spain has developed a spacial affection for drinking chocolate, really ever since it was introduced from the Americas. So much so, you'll find "chocolaterias" whose main purpose is selling cups of this tasty treat. It's easy to understand why when it's this good.
You can play around a little in exactly how thick it becomes in a couple of ways. One is the amount of cornstarch, and the other is how much you warm it to help it thicken the mixture.
Do take care, though, as you don't really want to boil this as it can separate, or the cornstarch can actually become thinner. You are also more likely to have it burn on the bottom. So, instead, make sure you just warm the mixture gently and stir it constantly.
This drink is made with only a small number of ingredients so make them count. I'd strongly recommend full fat milk to make sure you get the full creaminess from it. Also, use a good quality chocolate as you will taste the difference.
You can in theory use milk chocolate for this, but I personally find it too sweet. Instead, I much prefer bittersweet chocolate to have a lovely rich chocolate flavor that's not overly sweet. You can then add a little sugar to taste.
Unlike your more US-style version, you'll never find this topped with whipped cream or marshmallows in Spain. Instead, it is served just as it is, or commonly with churros, as I mention above.
Once you try this wonderful Spanish hot chocolate, you may never go back to the packets of powder. Rich, thick and a wonderfully delicious treat.
Spanish hot chocolate
- 2 oz bittersweet chocolate 55g
- 1 cup milk 240ml
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch cornflour
- ½ tbsp fine sugar approx, or up to 3tbsp, to taste
- Break the chocolate into chunks and set aside. In a small bowl, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of the milk to the cornstarch and mix to form a paste and set aside.
- Place the rest of the milk in a small saucepan and warm over a medium-low heat until it is almost boiling then remove from the heat.
- Add the chocolate to the warm milk, off the heat, and stir until it has all dissolved. Add the cornstarch paste and stir through well. Taste the mixture and add a little sugar, to taste (or none if you prefer less sweet). Return the pan to the heat but on a very low setting.
- Warm the mixture for around 2-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Make sure it doesn't boil. Pour into a cup or cups and serve, traditionally with churros (or at least a spoon!).
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