Atole de fresa

Long, cold winter nights mean one thing in my house: we’re making hot drinks to warm us up! One of my favorite cold-weather drinks is atole, especially because it’s customary to drink with breakfast or after dinner. The two most common flavors are vanilla and strawberry—atole de vainilla y atole de fresa. If you make it with chocolate, it’s called champurrado.

It’s a masa-based drink where the dissolved masa acts as a thickening agent to make this hot drink the kind of hearty treat that will really stick to your ribs. I’ve talked before about the availability of atole that comes in powdered packets, but next to my champurrado recipe (which uses prepared store-bought masa from my local tortillería), this version using Maseca instant corn masa flour is even easier to make and a sure step above the flavor from a packet. It’s a homemade taste without all the work of grinding your own nixtamal or having to dissolve masa using cheesecloth. It’s what you might call a semi-homemade version, if you will.

This drink dates back to pre-Columbian times in Mexico and is well documented as a form of sustenance amongst the Aztec and Mayan cultures. Historical texts tell us it was often flavored with fruits, spices or chiles.

Sometimes atole is also made with different colors of corn (I’ve personally tasted atole made with white, yellow and blue corn bases) and milk or water as the liquid. I don’t like my atole to be too thin so I have a habit of making it very thick at the beginning and then thinning it out with milk or water as needed. If you prefer yours to be thinner, you can use all water instead of milk, and reduce the portion of Maseca instant corn flour to your liking.

If you want more berry flavor, you can add another whole cup of strawberries and use more water than milk so it doesn’t thicken too much or dilute the berry flavor.

This recipe produces the best strawberry flavor when you use berries that are very ripe. A trick to my recipe is that I macerate the strawberries before I put them in the blender (which just means I slice them up and, place them in a bowl and sprinkle sugar over them to allow the natural juices to come out).

If you won’t consume the atole immediately after cooking, store in an airtight container with plastic wrap pressed to the top of the liquid so a skin doesn’t form over the top. If a skin does form, you can gently remove it with a spoon, but then you’re not getting to enjoy your whole batch. A final note: make sure the Maseca you’re using is specifically for tortillas and not tamales or you’ll get a different consistency.

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Feliz Día de la Candelaria

Today marks the Catholic holiday of Día de la Candelaria, known as Candlemas in English.

In Mexico, whoever cuts the Rosca de Reyes on Día de Los Reyes and ends up with the baby Jesus figurine is responsible for bringing tamales for everyone on February 2. Several times I’ve gotten the figurine while celebrating Día de Los Reyes with our family in Mexico and always get teased that I’ll have to come back for a visit soon (with tamales in tow).

Today, we’re eating tamales de pollo con mole verde at our house to celebrate. I admit: I bought mine this year from my favorite tamalería, the Tamalli Space Charros. They’ve got a tamal truck and when they stopped near my house the other day, I just couldn’t resist and bought a few for the holiday.

It’s also common in Mexico to enjoy your tamales on Día de la Candelaria with an atole. You can check out my recipe for champurrado for a delicious chocolate atole.

We’re working on a great recipe for tamales in the test kitchen based on a recipe given to us by a friend who grew up along the Texas-Mexico border. Her mother owns a well-known restaurant and one of the cooks there was generous enough to share their recipe with us. We can’t wait to pass it on to you soon!

  • How does your family celebrate Día de la Candelaria? What are your favorite kind of tamales?

Best of The Tortilla from 2010

Today we’re headed back to Chicago and la vida diaria, but so we don’t skip a beat while traveling, we’ve prepared a few lists, based on you, the readers, and what you loved most on The Other Side of The Tortilla in 2010. Click on the photos below to visit each recipe or story.

And don’t forget, for more homemade Tortilla goodness, a glimpse at what’s cooking in the Tortilla Test Kitchen and exclusive giveaways for fans, LIKE us on Facebook!

TOP 3 BEVERAGES/BEBIDAS

TOP 3 RECIPES/RECETAS

TOP 3 TRAVEL STORIES/CUENTOS DE VIAJE

TOP 3 VIDEOS

  • We hope you’ll find something new that you may have missed or that you rediscover a recipe or story you may have already read. If your favorite post isn’t listed here, let us know in the comments what you liked best. Also, please feel free to leave a comment with what you’d like to see in 2011!

CHAMPURRADO

champurrado

There’s this place in Mexico City where my suegro loves to eat. It’s a little family-owned restaurant called Merendera Las Lupitas, and he’s friends with the owner.

Las Lupitas is situated on a corner in Coyoacán facing the Plaza Santa Caterina, in a two-story white building with these beautiful, dramatic thick cobalt blue accents around the windows. They have a heavy, rustic wooden door, and inside there’s colorful papel picado strung across the ceiling. Lots of local art adorns the walls.

What I love about this place is that it’s so traditional. The menu is pretty basic and the atmosphere emits a feeling like you’re eating in a relative’s home. Even the placemats, dishes and furniture are very modest. But don’t be fooled by all the simplicity–each dish on the menu packs as much satisfaction as that of a fancy restaurant, minus the attitude and the cost.

Among the number of delicious, traditional items on the menu there, my suegro almost always orders a mug of atole at the end of his meal.

masa

Atole is a hot drink, made with a nixtamal (corn) base from dissolving masa in water, sometimes with piloncillo, and heating until it becomes thick. It’s a stick-to-your-ribs type drink that’s guaranteed to keep you warm. It can come in many flavors; vanilla, chocolate and strawberry are most typical.

You can usually find quickie versions in a powdered packet in the grocery store, and they taste OK if you’re in a bind and can’t make the real deal. But the packets typically use powdered cornstarch as a thickening agent, so they lack the depth and flavor produced by using real masa as the drink’s base. The chocolate version is called atole de chocolate or champurrado…. 

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