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strawberries dipped in mexican hot chocolate

One of my fondest memories of my early college days was late-night Mexican hot chocolate in Wallach 9C. Our 11-person suite—which included a Chinese physics genius, a Russian pianist, two Cross Country runners and a reclusive boy by the name of Dante—would gather in the common room most nights around ten, when Homer’s poetry had lost its muse-song and a vague yearning for an (absent) TV set was communally felt. It was then that Matt would emerge with thick tablets of Abuelita hot chocolate from San Diego, dissolving them in half a gallon of cheap milk. We drank it steaming from mismatched travel mugs while playing a finicky card game that involved multiple decks, listening to—dare I say it—old Disney tunes. It was privileged nerd-ism at its best.

Here in Santa Barbara it’s been such a warm winter that even strawberries have become year-round fare, and whenever I go to Shepard Farms I marvel at the plump berries tucked in with the kale and butternuts. But even a California winter is an excuse to make hot chocolate, and though I’m still a fan of Nestle’s Abuelita (and her Hispanic Foods aisle cousin Ibarra) I’ve begun experimenting with Mexican hot chocolate rich enough for dipping winter strawberries. Make this spiced, chocolatey base as a decadent sauce for fruit and ice cream, or whisk it into hot milk for a warm evening treat. Want hot chocolate to rival Juliet Binoche in Chocolat? I’ve been coveting this milk frother for some time, and who knows–my birthday’s coming up.

Mexican Hot Chocolate for Dipping or Drinking

The following amounts are for a single serving, but they can be easily doubled or tripled if you’d like to share.

1 small square dark chocolate

1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon (plus extra for dusting)

3 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp almond flour (or ground almonds)

milk

In a small saucepan, melt chocolate over low heat. Add cocoa with a small splash of milk and whisk to combine, then add cinnamon, sugar, and almond flour with an additional splash of milk and whisk until chocolate base becomes thick and shiny. At this point the sauce is ideal for dipping.

For hot chocolate, add 3/4–1 cup milk to the saucepan and whisk to heat and combine. Taste and add additional milk if necessary, and enjoy steaming in your favorite mug.

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