My friend, Evelyn Holingue, invited me to share my traditional Christmas dessert recipes. She’s written about Buche de Noel, a gorgeous French chocolate yule cake with chocolate whipped topping on her blog. Think of this as a virtual cookie exchange from different cultural backgrounds.
The weather outside is cold/rainy and alternately cold/sunny. And when I say ‘cold,’ I mean in the 40’s-50’s, which is lukewarm to those in the Mid-West and East Coast, but which is perfect Southern California December weather. Perfect for an evening of Mexican Christmas treats.
Besides the yummy tamales, of every size and filling, which we make during Christmas, we also enjoy making traditional desserts: Champurrado and Buñuelos.
Now the reason I say these Christmas desserts are Mexican/Chicano style is because they veer from the traditional recipes found in Mexico.
A bit of historical context: My family ranges from first to fourth generation Mexican descent, with smatterings of Irish, Scottish and Native American ancestry. But because all of us parents, the second gen’s, grew up in the 70’s, we identify as Chicano. As working mothers we often substituted ingredients or improvised the recipes.
FIrst, the hot beverage. Champurrado (cham-poo-rah-doh) is a Mexican hot chocolate drink married with an atole, a traditional masa-based Mexican drink. It is not Mexican hot chocolate- two separate beverages.
Masa harina is the flour used for making corn tortillas and can also be used to thicken this rich, chocolate drink. I use Maizena or corn starch. This thick drink is made with piloncillo (raw sugar cone), milk, Mexican chocolate like the Abuelita brand and whole cinnamon sticks. Sometimes anise star or vanilla bean is used.
Combine all ingredients into large saucepan, stir until chocolate, sugar are well blended.
8 cups whole milk*
2 disks (3.25 oz)Mexican chocolate
3 oz piloncillo cone
1/8 teaspoon ground anise seeds or one star anise
4 whole cinnamon sticks
3-5 tablespoons of Maizena stirred into 1/2 cup of warm water (this is for the thickness), add to hot mixture, use a whisk or molinillo (kids love this part) to stir frequently until it boils. Reduce heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.
I use almond milk, but you can use evaporated or soy milk. Experiment with the thickness of the drink by using less or more of Maizena. For the deep chocolate factor add two disks.This also tastes very good when you use a vanilla bean instead of star anise.
The ‘real deal’ buñuelos are made with yeast. They look like the mass produced Mexican cookie above, but taste like donuts. I made these once-very time intensive but worth the time.
Buñuelos of my youth consisted of making masa for tortillas, rolling out a tortilla, and frying it in hot lard until golden brown-about a minute on each side. On one plate, lined with paper towels, you set it to drain. On a second plate you mix 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon (I like cinnamon). Sprinkle the tortilla with the sugar mix.
You could use canola or coconut oil to fry the tortillas. A drizzle of agave syrup and cinnamon on top makes a pretty dessert.
You can use those uncooked ‘handmade’ tortillas from Costco and fry them, drain, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Or if you’re really in a hurry, take a ready made tortilla, fry, and dust with the cinnamon powdered sugar. For kids, you can cut tortillas into shapes and fry. Using ready cooked tortillas results in a cinnamon crisp texture.
Whichever recipe you use for the buñuelos, the fun part is in the process. Making these is easily a two person affair (parent/child; spouse; friend) where you can spend time creating, talking, and sharing.
And isn’t that what holidays are about?
Peace to you and yours.