Made with bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon, almonds and sugar, Mexican hot chocolate brings me back to my childhood, when I sipped on the hot, frothy drink during winter holidays. There is something magical about the combination of cinnamon and chocolate, with a slight nuttiness from the ground almonds. Now that I’m older and more prone to experimenting with spices, I like to add a little ancho chili to the mix.
As much as I’d like to constantly be sipping hot chocolate, it’s not the most portable thing, so I decided to craft this chocolatey, warmly spiced filling for hamantashen. When you’re not making hamantashen for Purim, you can use the filling in any number of filled cookies (Hello, rugelach!) or, if you’re feeling particularly impatient, simply spread it on toast.
So how do you get the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate in spreadable form? First, start with almond butter. You can make your own if you’re so inclined, but I lack the necessary kitchen equipment and decided just to buy it. Next, you need quality bittersweet chocolate. Since the hamantashen dough is already sweet, I like to go with a cacao content around 70 percent for balance. After a few 10-second bursts in the microwave, the chocolate is ready to be stirred into the almond butter.
Now for the fun part: the spices! I use the cinnamon favored in Mexico: soft and delicate Ceylon cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is also known a bit misleadingly as “true” cinnamon, largely due to the fact that its scientific name is Cinnamomum verum (verum meaning “true” in Latin). The cinnamon usually chided as “fake” is cassia, which is most likely to be found in American grocery stores labeled simply as “cinnamon.” In reality, although these are both common types of cinnamon, there are actually many varieties, all coming from the inner bark of a tree in the laurel family.
Ceylon cinnamon is often considered superior to other varieties, but really it comes down to your preference. If you want a bolder, spicier cinnamon, then use Vietnamese. If you want just a hint of warmth with a delicate scent, then go for Ceylon. (If you’re interested in reading more about the different cinnamons, check out my posts on the Bazaar Spices’ blog, here and here.)
And finally, the dark horse of my spice cabinet: the ancho pepper. Anchos, which are actually dried poblano peppers, have a mild to moderate heat level and a fruity, slightly smoky flavor. Most chili powder blends contain ancho, and the pepper is a welcome addition to salsas and other sauces. For our purposes, though, the ancho’s almost raisin-like sweetness pairs perfectly with the cinnamon and chocolate, adding just a hint of spice without being too obvious. (And you needn’t worry about your confection tasting like mole poblano.) You can use pre-ground ancho if you like, but I recommend seeking out whole ancho peppers. After a quick toasting in a dry skillet, coarsely grind the ancho’s flesh so that you have little flakes of the pepper in your chocolate filling.
A quick stir with a spoon, and your chocolate filling for hamantashen, or any cookie, is complete. Now you can go ahead and lick the spoon clean.