How to make the classic Mexican chocolate atole known as champurrado.
1 pound prepared masa* see note below
6 cups water
1 to 1 1/2 cups milk
1 disc Mexican chocolate, chopped (Abuelita, Ibarra, or other brand)
3-4 small cones of piloncillo (about 1 ounce each, or one large cone weighing 3-4 ounces and chopped into small pieces)
3-4 small cinnamon sticks
1-2 tablespoons granulated cane sugar such as Zulka morena (if desired, to make it sweeter)
Either cheesecloth or a very thin-ply cloth diaper to strain the dissolved masa
A molinillo or a wooden spoon
Measure out 6 cups of warm water into a large bowl. Submerge the masa and using your hands, dissolve the masa in the water until the water is cloudy and the dough is completely incorporated.
Over another large bowl, preferably deeper rather than wider, lay the cheesecloth or diaper cloth across the top of the bowl. I know you must be thinking I’m kidding about a diaper cloth–a friend taught me about this trick & I’ve never used cheesecloth since. The diaper cloth is a much cleaner method and I personally prefer it because you can wash them out and reuse them; the cheesecloth doesn’t strain as finely, makes more of a squirting mess and shouldn’t be reused. The diaper cloths I like come in a 12-pack from Gerber. Again, I know it sounds weird and at first, I was skeptical when a friend shared this method with me, but trust me, it causes minimal mess compared to the cheesecloth.
While holding the cloth in place, pour about one-third of the dissolved masa water into the cloth. Bring the ends of the cloth together to close it at the top and gently massage the bottom of the cloth to strain the water through. Be careful not to squeeze too hard because the water will squirt. Repeat until you’ve poured all the masa water through the cloth.
Once you’ve massaged the cloth so there’s no more water but still some clumps of masa, squeeze the cloth well to get any remaining water out. Discard the remaining masa from inside the cloth and pour the water into a deep pot.
Place the pot over a medium flame and add the piloncillo (you can chop or grate the piloncillo before adding if you like), stirring with the molinillo or wooden spoon until it dissolves.
Add the cinnamon once the piloncillo is incorporated.
Constantly stir the water; as it heats, it will start to thicken. If you don’t stir enough, depending on the masa you used, it can start to get clumpy–which you don’t want. You will know the atole is thick enough to add the chocolate when the liquid leaves a coating on the back of your wooden spoon.
Add the chopped chocolate and stir well with your spoon or molinillo.
Add the milk, stirring constantly. If desired, add a little raw cane sugar to sweeten.
Remove from heat and let cool slightly; ladle into mugs.
*Either pre-made masa purchased from a tortilleria or homemade will work; if making at home using a masa harina product like Maseca, prepare to directions on packaging before proceeding. If you buy masa harina for home use, be sure you buy the one for making tortillas–not the one for making tamales. If you’re really ambitious, you can grind your own nixtamal to make masa. I typically buy mine straight from the tortilleria.
Recipe by The Other Side of the Tortilla at https://theothersideofthetortilla.com/2010/04/champurrado/