SO rare and precious was chocolate centuries ago that the Aztec emperor Montezuma sipped it from a golden cup. Never would he have imagined that his elixir’s prized ingredient would become an everyday luxury as it is today.
In modern Mexico, chocolate is still primarily something to drink, whipped to a froth with a wooden beater called a molinillo. Its other common use is in moles, adding depth and color to these rich, savory sauces.
Oddly enough, though, Mexican chocolate rarely, if ever, appears in desserts. But if you think about it, Mexican chocolate is a natural for the baker’s pantry. Not only is it already sweetened, but it’s also often made with vanilla, cinnamon or almonds.
Given these nuances of flavor, a dessert made with Mexican chocolate is irresistibly intriguing. It’s chocolate, but with a subtle, mysterious difference.
In the old days, Mexican women ground cacao beans on a metate, or grinding stone, warmed over a fire to extract the oil, then adding different seasonings. Today, the chocolate is produced in modern factories, but remains faithful to the old traditions.
The Mexican chocolate you’re likely to find in supermarkets is formed into round tablets that have been scored so they can easily be broken into smaller pieces. Two of the most common brands are Ibarra and Abuelita; they’re packaged in distinctive hexagonal boxes. Both work equally well in desserts; Abuelita has a stronger cinnamon flavor for when you want to play up the spice flavor.