Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Atole (Mexican Warm Cornmeal Beverage)

Atole (ah-TOH-lay) is an ancient Mexican beverage with origins in pre-Columbian times. Similar warm drinks, thickened with cornmeal, are found throughout Central America and are especially popular for breakfast. Mexican atole is traditional at dia de los muertos celebrations, and it's chocolate version, champurrado, is popular at Christmastime. The consistency of atole varies anywhere from almost porridge-like to a thin, pourable drink.

4 servings

5 cups Milk or water
1/2 cup Masa harina
1/4 cup Brown sugar or piloncillo
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Vanilla

Whisk the milk or water, masa harina, sugar or piloncillo and cinnamon in a large saucepan until smooth.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to stir until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and serve hot in mugs.

Champurrado (Chocolate atole): After removing from heat, whisk in 4 ounces of chopped Mexican chocolate until completely dissolved. Or use 4 ounces of chopped baking chocolate. Adjust sugar as needed. Champurrado is traditionally whisked with a wooden utensil called a molinillo until it is frothy. The beverage is then served with a generous serving of foam spooned on top of each serving.
Atole de Fruta: Eliminate the cinnamon and stir in 1 cup of pureed pineapple or strawberries after removing the atole from heat.
Vary the amount of masa harina to make the atole thicker or thinner according to your personal taste.
Use oatmeal instead of masa harina. Puree until smooth in a blender before cooking.
Use half milk and half water if you like.

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