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Atole is a thick, hot beverage that's very common in Mexico. Its consistency is as thick as crème Anglaise or a thin porridge. It's basically milk thickened with masa (corn meal), sweetened with cane sugar, brown sugar or piloncillo, and then flavored with vanilla, chocolate, fruits or nuts.
It is meant to be a breakfast drink, but we drink it all the time. You can even find on the street in Mexico, where people with huge steaming pots are selling it with tamales, It is also very popular for festivities such as Day of the Dead, Christmas and Día de Los Reyes.
Atole has its roots in the pre-Columbian times, where originally it was made from dried corn kernels soaked before grinding and cooking. Now most recipes call for masa, masa harina or corn starch. Although corn starch is the most modern way to make this traditional beverage, it's not necessarily the healthiest way. For this recipe, I'm using almond milk rather than dairy, and oats as the thickening agent. I chose to flavor it with the seeds of a Mexican vanilla bean, but think of this recipe as a blank canvas to start from. Flavor it with orange peel, chocolate or even strawberries. Cinnamon stick, star anise or other spices are also great in this recipe. If adding fruit, use roughly a cup of puree.