About midway through Chapter 2 of my novel Owl Dance, you’ll come across the following passage:
The dip in the hot spring after a long day of riding let Ramon sleep very well, but he still woke up sore the next morning. He dragged himself out of bed, washed his face in the basin of water that was in the room and dressed. Ramon could smell coffee and something else, a blending of chocolate and cinnamon he hadn’t smelled in many years. He followed the smells and sat down at the kitchen table. Alicia placed a bowl of chocolate- and cinnamon-spiced atole in front of Ramon along with a cup of coffee. “I haven’t had atole since I was a kid,” he said as he dug in. “I’m not going to want to leave.”
One comment and question I’ve already received about the book is that atole sounds really good. What exactly is it? Well, depending on how you look at it, atole is a thin porridge or a thick drink made from masa (the corn flour used to make tortillas or tamales). The atole that Ramon has is “atole de chocolate” or “champurrado”.
I was first introduced to atole about ten years ago by a wonderful storyteller named Greg Pedroza. One of his specialties is telling alliterative stories and many of them are inspired by his family traditions. You can learn more about Greg here: http://gpedroza.com.
Here are the ingredients I use when making atole de chocolate:
What you’ll need is about a half cup of dried masa, a 3-ounce tablet of Mexican chocolate, about half a 3-ounce piloncillo cone and some water. All of these are readily available in my local grocery store in Las Cruces. Outside of New Mexico, you may have to go to the “international aisle” or whatever they call it to find the masa and the Mexican chocolate. The piloncillo cone may be the hardest thing to find. If you can’t find it, you can substitute a scant quarter cup packed dark brown sugar and a teaspoon of molasses. Mexican hot chocolate tablets are already cinnamon spiced, so if you use some other chocolate, you’ll need to add about a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon.
To make the atole, break up the chocolate tablet and the piloncillo cone and place them in a blender along with the masa and about two cups of water (for a thicker, more porridge-like atole) or about four cups of water (for a thinner, more hot-chocolate like atole). Blend until will mixed. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and bring to a simmer for five minutes. Once done, pour into bowls or cups and serve. I like to add a little milk when I serve the atole.
This is a good way to start a day. Also, atole is a great accompaniment to fresh tamales for supper.
Owl Dance is available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and direct from the publisher at: http://flyingpenpress.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=49