This historic hot chocolate comes from the Caribbean island of Curaçao. Hot chocolate is a traditional drink at a brit milah (bris) in Curaçao, complemented by sponge cookies called panlevi.
This is one of the most ancient, but also one of the most popular, recipes of the Curaçao Sephardim. Traditionally baked for all holidays and other festive occasions, these crisp sponge cookies are often sent to relatives and the sick, and they are essential served with Curaçao hot chocolate.
3½ Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra (optional) to serve
4 Tbsp. granulated sugar (or to taste)
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 medium egg
For a stronger flavor, double the amount of ground cinnamon and vanilla extract in the recipe.
Vegetable oil, for greasing
3 medium eggs, beaten
½ cup (3½ ounces or 100 grams) granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup (3½ ounces or 100 grams) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp. baking powder
Place all the ingredients, except the egg, in a saucepan. Fill the empty evaporated milk can with water and add this to the pan. Mix well and bring gently to a boil, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and cool to drinking temperature.
Beat the egg well, then add to the cocoa mixture, stirring to combine.
Pour into serving mugs/cups and serve immediately with an extra sprinkle of cocoa powder on top, if you like.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour two large baking sheets.
Put the eggs, sugar, salt and cinnamon into a mixing bowl and beat together well, either by hand or using an electric handheld mixer, then stir in the vanilla. Fold in the flour and baking powder by hand to make a smooth batter.
Drop tablespoonfuls of the cookie batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned.
Remove from the oven and loosen the cookies from the baking sheets using a palette knife. Turn the oven off, then return the cookies to the oven to crisp up. Once crisp, transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool. Serve with Curaçao hot chocolate.
Store the panlevi in an airtight container at room temperature; they should keep for a few days.
Michael Leventhal is an award-winning author, publisher and founder of Gefiltefest, a Jewish food charity. He eats a lot of chocolate. He is the author of The Chocolate King; Babka, Boulou & Blintzes and more.