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Image of Champurrado Conde
One of the perks of writing this blog, besides getting to know some of the interesting people on Melissa’s staff, is sometimes learning about an altogether “new” dish! Like this tasty chocolate drink, submitted by Brianna Conde, that has been enjoyed for centuries by the Mexican culture. Brianna, a member of Melissa’s Marketing Team, shares her family’s version of Champurrado. It’s her favorite drink during the holidays or as the perfect warm-up on a chilly winter day.

“This recipe has been in my family for as long as I can remember,” Brianna recalled. “It started with my grandfather who would always make it for the family gatherings during the holidays. In fact, he and my dad carry on the tradition at our family’s bakery called Conde Cakes. They serve it with a slice of Mexican Sweet Bread. It’s also the perfect hot drink for the winter time to make at home and enjoy with family!”

Champurrado is a warm Mexican drink made by heating milk, Mexican specialty chocolate, piloncillo, and cinnamon. This mixture is then thickened into a smooth, creamy-thick, chocolate hot drink! The Aztecs and Mayans blended cocoa beans and vanilla to create an energizing drink that was probably the historical beginnings of this beverage. The main chocolate ingredient is less intense than dark chocolate, and the drink has many variations, ranging from sweet to spicy. It differs significantly from hot chocolate in both taste and texture. The special chocolate used in Mexico are rustic round tablets, which can be easily found in the ethnic section of almost any U.S. grocery store. These tablets contain cacao paste, sugar and cinnamon with a much grainier texture than baking or milk chocolate.

So, I have seen those sugar cones of Piloncillo in the same ethnic section and always wondered what to do with them. Piloncillo is a raw form of pure cane sugar commonly used in Mexican cooking. This type of sugar has not been processed, so it has a golden-brown color and a deliciously rich flavor. It is made by boiling down cane juice into a thick syrup that is poured into cone-shaped molds and hardened. The name “piloncillo” means "pylon" for its conical shape. BTW, I cut Brianna’s measurements in half to make a smaller batch of this recipe for myself. Know that chopping up a sometimes-rock-hard piloncillo cone can be problematic but should be the first approach. However, if the cone is just too hard to chop, soften it by zapping it in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds.

Since Champurrado was unfamiliar to me, I had to do some research about this drink to get started. In gathering support material for this text, I also discovered that Brianna’s grandfather had put his own twist on the traditional recipe with a key ingredient swap. That is, I cannot find another Champurrado formula anywhere on the ‘net that uses corn starch as the thickener. Instead, Masa Harina flour is used in every recipe that I found. Very Interesting since these two ingredients offer completely different characteristics. Corn starch is corn processed down to a fine powder that ends up containing no proteins, nutrients, fiber or flavor – it is high in carbs and considered a very efficient thickener. Masa Harina is flour milled from corn kernels that have been soaked in a lime solution to remove the hulls. It still contains some protein, fiber and nutrients, has a sweet corn flavor and its texture does not thicken very efficiently at all! Go figure. The texture you are aiming for is thick and creamy, which the corn starch accomplished perfectly. Note: I mixed the water and cornstarch quickly, then poured it through a sieve so it would thicken in the milk mixture, which I felt gave me greater control of the texture. So, I did not try a batch using masa; I’ll stick with Grandad’s version. Hence, in the interest of culinary historical accuracy, this recipe is being christened Champurrado Conde!
Image of Brianna
The business of perishable produce takes many hands to get the bounty of cultivated crops from fields and orchards to grocery shelves across the country. For a wholesale supplier like Melissa’s, that is accomplished by a staff of very experienced fresh produce marketers who have developed working relationships with buyers of produce employed by both regional and national grocers, large and small. While relationships in this competitive business very much make the difference when the quality of service, product and price are equal, most of that “quality of service” comes before and after the Melissa’s salesperson receives an order from a retail account and is the entire focus of Brianna’s role in our system.

“While each day brings new and interesting challenges, my role is mostly about communication in one form or another, all focused on customer and sales support. I work with both local and East Coast accounts updating customer price lists as well as sending out samples and providing regular reports to customers on supplies and field conditions. I also help with entering orders and processing the paperwork. One of the most important and rewarding daily tasks for me is answering customer inquiries about products or orders in a timely manner. I think attention to detail is key and much appreciated by the busy people I deal with daily.”

Away from the office, Brianna has a passion for creating all sorts of DIY “stuff” with her Cricut machine. I didn’t know what that was either, but then again, this writer just tasted his first Champurrado, too! So a Cricut is a brand of computer-controlled cutting machines designed for home crafters. The machines are used for precision cutting of paper, felt, vinyl, fabric, and with the right blades, other materials such as leather, mat board and wood. Brianna enjoys the satisfaction of seeing something online, like a cup or shirt, and then making it for herself or a family member. In fact, this past year, she has been busy doing all things DIY for her upcoming wedding next summer. This bride-to-be says that way she is in complete control of the event by customizing everything to her own personal wants!

When asked if there was a famous person she would most want to share a cup of hot Champurrado with, Brianna admitted that, along with millions of others these days, it would have to be Taylor Swift. “We are contemporaries, and I grew up relating to her deeply personal lyrics, which made such an impression during my high school years. While I know them all by heart, I would still like to have a long chat with her about some of the meanings of her words. She has been a long-time favorite and certainly a role model for being her own person. I bet we would end up having dinner too!”

Champurrado Conde
Image of ingredients for Champurado
1 gallon of milk
2 large cinnamon sticks
4 cups water
1 Melissa’s Piloncillo cone
1 Abuelitas Chocolate Round Bar
2 cups cornstarch
2 cups water

Image of canela in milk
Bring milk and cinnamon sticks to a boil.
Image of chocolate
In a small sauce pan melt the chocolate bar and piloncillo in the water, stirring constantly to keep the mixture from sticking.
Image of pouring boiled chocolate into milk with cinnamon
Turn down the flame on the milk to low, pour the melted chocolate mixture into milk.
Image of thickener
Combine water and cornstarch in a blender and mix thoroughly. This mixture will thicken as it sets so keep it moving. Briana suggests combining about half into the milk, stirring it in slowly through a strainer to avoid clumping. Then test if it is thick enough and more from there.
Image of Champurrado
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