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Mexican Chocolate and Coffee Drinks

Mexico produces a firm brown sugar cone called piloncillo

If you enjoy coffee and hot chocolate, there are plenty of Mexican recipes that will satisfy that caffeine drive and sweet tooth. First, however, here's an overview of piloncillo, the hard brown sugar shaped in a cone.

Piloncillo is also lovingly called "little pylon" based on its shape. It's available at Mexican markets in a range of sizes. Although somewhat different, regular brown sugar can always be used as a substitute in Mexican recipes. Because it is a hardened form, it has to be shaved or sliced, preferably with a serrated knife.

Piloncillo is known by other names: panela and panocha. Like the American counterparts, it is also available as blanco (light) and oscuro (dark). The little cone will keep for a very long time if tightly wrapped and stored in a cool, dark pantry.

Traditional and popular recipes include:

Cafe de Olla (Out of the Pot)
4 cups water
½ cup grated piloncillo oscuro
4 cinnamon sticks
2/3 cup freshly ground coffee

In a saucepan, combine water, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Bring the heat up slowly and stir until all sugar has dissolved. Next, bring to a steady boil and let it cook for about 20 minutes or until reduced by one-quarter. Add the coffee and stir. Return to a boil and remove from heat. Let rest for about 5 minutes. Strain through a coffee filter or very fine sieve. Serve immediately.

4 ounces Mexican chocolate
5 cups milk (or blend of water and milk)
7 ounces masa harina (corn flour)
2 tablespoons piloncillo

Grind the chocolate to a fine powder. Traditionally a mortar and pestle are used, but a blender will work. Heat liquid in a heavy saucepan and slowly add the flour to form a paste. Use a whisk for froth. Heat to medium and mixture should come to a boil. Stir continuously until thickened. Add the choclate and piloncillo and stir until well blended. Serve immediately.


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