We've been seriously digging on atole over the last few frigid days, specifically, this version made with cinnamon-packed horchata. Start with fragrant rice, nutty (and affordable) pepitas, and a generous portion of cinnamon stick. Add just enough maple syrup to make the corn sing in the final product, and let your stove transform it all into one comforting, fluffy beverage thick enough to drink with a spoon.
Try it out for a light breakfast or a snack any time of day. But keep in mind that, comforting as it is, this atole isn't a sweet indulgence. It's more of a staple item--mild, a little earthy, and soothing. We top ours with extra spice, and strongly suggest you do the same, though it isn't necessary. The horchata recipe calls for vanilla extract for price and convenience, but if you can spare a quarter or so of a fresh bean, use that for a flavorful (and more traditional) substitute.
And, finally, feel free to make the horchata in advance. It keeps well in the fridge for a few days. Use the spent pulp to bulk up oats--the ground rice cooks up softly, of course, and the ground pepita adds a bit of texture and fiber. Add the pulp to 1/4 cup steel-cut oats, combine with 1 1/2 cups water and cook, essentially, like rice: cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes. Sweeten and garnish as you would straight oats. They can be stored in the fridge for several days and reheated on the stove with a little nondairy milk to thin out the mixture, which thickens as it stands.
Atole de Horchata
yields 2 large or 4 small servings
3 cups horchata, recipe follows, divided
1/4 cup masa harina
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
pinch ground aniseed
Reserve 1/2 cup of horchata in a medium bowl and set aside. Pour remaining horchata into a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When it begins to boil, working quickly, make a slurry by whisking the masa harina into the reserved horchata. When the pot contents come to a full boil, whisk in the slurry until fully combined, then reduce heat to medium-low, retaining a steady high simmer.
Cook, whisking frequently, until thickened into a near-custard consistency, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together the ground spices and set aside. You'll know the atole is ready when whisking causes the mixture to come away from the bottom of the pot. Serve immediately, with spoons, and sprinkle a pinch or two of the spice mixture on top of each cup.
yields 3 cups, adapted from Pure Vegan
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup jasmine rice
1/4 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2-inch cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 1/2 TBSP grade B maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Combine the hot water, rice, pepitas, and cinnamon. Cover and let soak at least six hours, or overnight. Blend until smooth and strain thoroughly through a nut milk bag, squeezing to express as much liquid as possible.
Combine the milk with salt, syrup, vanilla, and enough cold water (2 to 2 1/4 cups) to make a total of 3 cups liquid. Note that this horchata separates readily, so stir well before each use.