Horchata with Chocolate and Pumpkin Seeds
(Horchata de Pepitas)
SERVES 6 – 8
Horchata, a cool, creamy drink popular across Latin America, is frequently made from ground almonds and rice, but some Central American versions also feature pumpkin seeds, or pepitas. This decadent adaptation, spiked with cinnamon and dark chocolate, tastes rich and nutty and makes a delightful liquid dessert.
1 cup long-grain white rice
1⁄2 cup blanched almonds
1⁄2 cup pepitas
1 vanilla bean
1 2-inch piece cinnamon bark
2 oz. dark brown sugar
1 1⁄2 oz. dark chocolate
5 1⁄2 cups water
Additional ground cinnamon and sugar, to taste
1. Grind the rice, almonds, and pepitas to a coarse powder (a coffee grinder works well here) and pour into a large bowl. To the powder, add the seeds from 1 vanilla bean and cinnamon bark. Pour in 3 1⁄2 cups water, stir, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit overnight.
2. The next day, pour the watery rice and nut mixture into a medium saucepan and warm it over a low flame. Stir in 2 oz. dark brown sugar, 1 1⁄2 oz. chopped very dark chocolate, and 2 cups water, mixing until all is well combined. (You may wish to add more cinnamon and sugar.) Once the liquid is even in color and just barely simmering, remove the saucepan from heat and let it come to room temperature. Then pour the contents into a large bowl, cover, and let chill for at least 3 hours.
3. Once it has cooled, strain the horchata—which should be a milky, dappled brown—through a fine-mesh sieve and into a pitcher, taking care to press the last bits of liquid from the rice and seed solids. If some nutty kernels make their way into the pitcher, don't worry; they will only enhance the drink's wonderfully thick texture. To serve, pour over ice cubes and garnish with a piece of cinnamon bark. Enjoy immediately.