Posted on January 13 2016
Over the past few years I have worked with indigenous women in Mexico, Peru, Belize, Guatemala, and Panama. My mission was to teach them modern chocolate making and in return I would learn ancient cacao drink preparation.
None of the villages I visited had chocolate making machines and a surprising amount (basically almost all) did not have electricity. The only thing I could teach them was a rustic style of chocolate that they were already familiar with. But they were only using this chocolate to mix with water to make drinks.
I realized I would not be able to teach them to make smooth chocolate bars or truffles, but I could show them how else to use this rustic chocolate. The goal was to teach them how to use cacao in new ways in order for them to create micro-businesses. I had to create a list of products that used ingredients that were easy to find, cheap to buy, their customers would find appealing, were easy to make, required no special tools, could be made over wood-fired stove, and included rustic chocolate. And no refrigeration required. All requirements that would defeat any pastry chef or chocolatier.
But I am not a normal chocolatier. I can be beat in a French or Japanese pastry kitchen but if you throw me in the jungle with only basic tools; I demolish. Anyone can make great things in a fully-equipped air-conditioned kitchen. But only few would can create with very few resources
This rice pudding was my first idea. In Guatemala we made it with water, in Peru with sweetened condensed milk, and in Panama with milk powder. None of these places had access to fresh milk.
I had never considered using Mexican drinking chocolate disks or similar chocolate to create desserts because I always had access to Nestle chocolate morsels or any type of processed chocolate chips or bars. And every recipe in any dessert requires these processed chips/bars.
Why had I never thought of using this type of chocolate to make desserts? It's less processed, has more flavor, and requires less of it for recipes. This led me to a journey of rediscovering unrefined chocolate.
I want to clarify that this style of chocolate has many names so it might get confusing. The easiest way to describe it in my world is "Mexican Hot Chocolate." You can buy it at any Latin grocery store in a yellow 6 sided polygon box. In Mexico it is known as "chocolate", in Colombia, Spain, and the Philippines it is called "tablilla", while in the USA and Europe it can be called "cacao liquor or cocoa mass." To learn more about this style of chocolate go here.
This chocolate is simply made by grinding cacao. The grinding can happen on a rock (metate) or mill (molino) and is not processed beyond grinding it into a paste. Most Americans and Europeans don't know much about this style of chocolate and don't have access to it. All mainstream chocolate bars are made with cacao that has been ground for hours, sometimes days. So it is very smooth and has lost a lot of the natural flavors of the cacao. And will include vanilla, lecithin, milk, and other types of oils/fats.
All dessert recipes in the USA/Europe are written for those who have access to chips/morsels, bars, or refined chocolate. Most Latin American countries, especially indigenous communities, do not have access to these, but they have access to this less-ground, less-processed chocolate.
On the left is the mill I used in Guatemala; we passed the cacao three times. On the right is the grinder used at Dandelion Chocolate; this stays running for three days. Both can produce 100% cacao chocolate but different textures and flavor.
This bar is 100% ground cacao. It was refined for hours, maybe days, to be smooth and lost the stronger cacao flavors. It was processed in a machine that is meant to run for hours to decrease the size of the cacao particles. This you would consume as is. This can be called cacao liquor, cacao mass, or 100% chocolate.
This chocolate bar is also 100% ground cacao. But passed through a mill, maybe several times, and still has a rough texture. It does not get processed in a machine that is continuous, as soon as you put the cacao in, it comes out the other end. Flavors are stronger, texture is rougher. Although people do eat it as is, it is most commonly used to make drinks. This can also be called cacao liquor or cacao mass.
Then there is this type of chocolate that has sugar and spices included. I would generously say that most of these chocolates are 50% cacao/50% sugar. Although the figure might be closer to 30% cacao/70% sugar. This is also unrefined chocolate, the texture is rough, the cacao flavor is strong and visually you can see it is grainy.
All my rustic chocolate recipes will give you measurements for the disk/triangle brands and for the 100% brands.
You can substitute one for the other but there will be a flavor difference. This recipe is meant to be use with the Mayordomo or Abuelita/Ibarra style chocolate.
This is the recipe I make at home. In Guatemala we used only water. In Peru we used sweetened condensed milk and it was nice and gooey; here is the recipe that uses sweetened condensed milk instead of fresh whole milk.
Arroz con leche | Chocolate & Whole Milk Recipe30-40 minutes
1 cup white rice
6 cups of whole milk
2 cups water
80 grams piloncillo (aka rapadura, panela, unrefined sugar)
90 grams Mexican hot chocolate (1 disk of Ibarra/Abuelita brands)
If you do not have Mexican hot chocolate: substitute 45 grams (1/2 cup) of cacao liquor, 50 grams of sugar, ½ teaspoon of Mexican cinnamon.
2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)
- Notes: You can add more or less chocolate or sugar, make it to your personal taste. You can substitute brown rice for the white rice. You can also use regular white sugar to substitute the piloncillo.
- Rinse rice, place in pot with water and milk and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes.
- After these 20 minutes, add all ingredients and stir constantly to avoid spilling and sticking.
Remove from heat after rice fully cooks and when it is your desired consistency. About 10-20 minutes. The rice will dry out as it cools. So if you want a creamy rice pudding, remove from heat when it still has some liquid. But make sure the rice is cooked. You can always add a splash of water if it gets too dry.