First of all the names sometimes seem to be interchangeable, mostly because the champurrado served at trucks doesn’t have a ton of chocolate in it. Hey, chocolate is expensive so some folks just add a touch. But you have access to chocolate so you can add a lot for a deeper color and richer taste.
Here’s the most important guide: Atole + Chocolate = Champurrado
I prefer atole with it’s cinnamon forward warmth tempered with dark brown sugar. If you make it with rice flour it’s like drinking rice pudding. I make it with corn flour and maseca because I love the corny taste. But the best part of making the drinks is that I can pull my cup of atole out of the pot then add the chocolate at which point it becomes Champurrado de Atole de Chocolate or thickened Mexican Hot Chocolate. and the chocolate lovers can be happy too.
The drinks are made of three basic parts
-Flavor Base: milk, cinnamon sticks (or ground cinnamon), piloncillo (or any really dark or flavorful unprocessed sugar)
-Thickening Liquid: water and your choice of thickener Maizena (same as cornstarch), Maseca (masa flour), rice flour
-Mexican Chocolate Tablets (Abuelita and Taza are most common in LA)
makes 4 small cups or two giant mugs
First make the thickener
you can easily adjust the thickness by adding more or less thickener or more or less water
1 cup water
1/2 cup fine yellow corn flour or Maseca or a combination of both
1/4 cup If using Maizena, cornstarch or rice flour
Measure cold tap water into measuring cup. Add thickener of choice and stir until there are no lumps. Set the thickening mixture aside while you prepare the flavoring base.
2 cups milk
1 stick cinnamon or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup pilloncilo or dark brown sugar or to taste
Bring ingredients to a simmer in heavy pot stirring so the milk doesn’t burn the bottom of the pot. If you’re using piloncillo use a potato masher to break it up as the milk heats. When the sugar is melted into the milk and the mixture is hot add the thickening mixture. Stir while you bring the combination of flavor base and thickener to a simmer. Let simmer for a minute while stirring. If you want to make Champurrado add the Mexican Chocolate Tablet (s) now. Start with half a tablet and allow it to melt in the hot mixture. Add more chocolate if you desire. Adjust thickness by adding more water or a bit more thickener mixed into cold water. ATTENTION: If you add thickening flour straight to the hot mixture you will get lumps.
Pour into cups. If you have churros do a happy dance.