I grew up in a border town. I had the best of both worlds, connected by a bridge above the Rio Grande. Growing up in Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico gave me the opportunity to experience not one, but two cultures that have made me the woman I am today. It's crazy to think that by just walking across the bridge you were in a whole different country.
I'm always excited to go back home for the Holidays. It's a whirlwind of emotions, especially after following so many traditions for many years. Growing up, we always went to church on Sundays, so much so that I adapted to both languages, and learned each prayer in English and Spanish. I remember being excited every time we went because well, outside of the church there were always food vendors.
The Champurrado Woman
It was locals just trying to make a living by doing what they know best: cooking. You had the "Elotero man" who sold you the best corn on the cob, the "Tamale woman" who poured her heart and soul into her food, and my personal favorite, the "Champurrado woman."
In case you don't know what champurrado is, it is a chocolate-based atole that is a Christmas staple for almost every Mexican household. What makes this drink special is that it is prepared with masa de maiz, which makes the texture thick, meaning you can easily dip a Concha (Mexican sweet bread roll) in it to combine both sweet flavors.
Although there are several recipes for how to make Champurrado, I like to believe that it all depends on who is making it. As corny as it sounds, the more love you put into it (and a dash of cinnamon) the better it will come out. I was lucky enough to learn how to make Champurrado thanks to my wonderful great-grandmother. I will always remember those cold nights when we would visit her in Mexico, champurrado on one hand, and Ojarascas on the other.
How To Make Champurrado
Making it is pretty easy, all it takes is a few ingredients. including milk, piloncillo, which is raw cane sugar, Mexican chocolate, masa harina, water, cinnamon, and vanilla.
Start by placing milk (or water if you'd like) in a large saucepan along with a cinnamon stick and a piloncillo. Once the water starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the piloncillo has all melted. If you don't have piloncillo, you can use brown sugar instead. As far as how much, that is for you to decide, measure with your heart!
Once it's all dissolved add 2 Nestlé ABUELITA Hot Chocolate Drink Tablets (which you can order online here) and stir until they are dissolved.
This is where it gets tricky, and a little bit sticky! While your liquid is still cooking, grab a bowl and pour 2 cups of water and masa harina, enough to make a creamy texture. Make sure you mix it well to avoid clumps, or else you'll have hard textured masa in your Champurrado.
When you see the chocolate has dissolved, slowly pour the masa mixture into the saucepan while stirring it to get rid of any clumps. You can also use a strainer while pouring the mix if you would like!
Turn the heat to medium-high once to boil the Champurrado and keep stirring! Once 5 to 10 minutes have passed, reduce the heat low and you should begin to notice your mixture thickening. Once you get it to the texture you would like, let it cool down just a little bit and enjoy your delicious Mexican treat.
If you're feeling adventurous, which I totally recommend, you can also add some vanilla, pecans, and a little bit of orange zest while boiling to give it that rich flavor. It's definitely worth it, especially on a cold winter night.
While this recipe is created more by feeling than measurements, here's a Champurrado recipe from Mexico in My Kitchen.
So there you have it, Champurrado to soothe your soul!
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Silke Jasso is a bilingual editor, writer, producer, and journalist specializing in online media. Born in Laredo Texas, she currently works with Wide Open Country and Wide Open Media.