Christmas hot chocolate or ‘Chocolatada Navideña’ is a unique tradition that involves handing out home-made hot chocolate, Panetón or sweet breads, and small gifts to children in schools, churches, and communities in Peru.
Celebrated throughout the country during the month of December, this event is even more popular in the smallest and poorest Andean communities, where the main goal is to bring great joy to the children and their parents.
At the end of the year, families, friends and organisations get together and with their own money, put on the Chocolatada event.
As kids descend from all corners of local communities early in the morning, they join the queue and wait their turn patiently to get a hot chocolate and some panettone bread. Then, before the giving of gifts – which can include dolls, toy cars, lollypops, biscuits and a few other bits and bobs – they often play all sorts of games and are entertained with folkloric dance shows.
There are often in excess of a hundred children at each event, so the challenging logistics of managing this quantity of excited children is quite fascinating to witness.
That said, nowadays Chocolatadas aren’t only reserved for the Christmas season. In fact, many Peruvians have taken the custom outside its usual period to celebrate any kind of event, so it appears at any number of typical social gatherings in Peru.
Anyway, with so many different regions and families in Peru, it would be difficult to provide you with the ‘real’ Chocolatada recipe. Although, we think a proper Chocolatada recipe should at least contain cocoa, cinnamon and orange peel – some will also add oatmeal to make it thicker.
Astrid Gutsche (world-famous pastry chef and wife of Gastón Acurio) once said how curious it was that every person had their own secret ingredients and techniques to make their home-made hot chocolate delicious. Although, she did highlight that the most important key was to use great quality chocolate, so please don’t be stingy and buy proper chocolate to do this.
Here we’ve added Astrid’s own Chocolatada magic formula, so you’ll be able to celebrate Christmas the Peruvian way this year!
300 ml fresh milk
150 ml heavy cream
100 ml evaporated milk
50 ml condensed milk
3 tablespoons of powder cocoa
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla pod or 4ml vanilla essence
1/4 orange peel (remove the white part)
160 gr chocolate 60-70 %
- Cut the chocolate in small bits.
- Combine the evaporated milk, fresh milk, condensed milk, cinnamon, cloves, orange peel, vanilla and heat gently in a saucepan.
- Add the chocolate and cocoa, stirring constantly.
- Add the heavy cream. Stir until it thickens – the mixture should stick on the ladle.
- Make sure it simmers gently.
- Add sugar to taste (a little suffice).
- And for those who love it seasoned, feel free to add a dash of Pisco just before serving.
It’s ready! But of course, don’t forget to serve it with some panettone cake too…