what is the difference between champurrado and atole? - street vendor confusion
i get "champurrado" from a lady who walks the street in front of my house selling it plus these amazing green chile tamales. but when i try to find a recipe, it has too much chocolate and is thick and gritty from masa harina. what she sells is pale beige, lightly cinnamony and cocoa-y, and thick and smooth. is this atole or champurrado?
champurrado = atole + chocolate
From your description it seems lady is selling her own version.
If you want something that is really smooth, you may have to use corn starch instead of masa. The packets of Maizena atole mix that you can get from most groceries use this (fecula de maiz). They are, in effect, a Mexican version of vanilla (or chocolate) pudding.
You can also buy 'champurado mixes' such as Juanitas brand. I don't have one on hand to check whether it lists masa harina (a very fine grind?) or corn starch as its base.
Right. Atole is thickened with corn, but the corn can be very fine (corn starch) or much coarser (various grinds of cornmeal). I've sampled a lot of champurrado and experienced a wide variety of flavors and textures, from very creamy and chocolaty to much more gritty and only lightly chocolatey and any combination in between. It's really based on the preference of the atole maker, who probably makes it the way mama did. Since chocolate is a luxury ingredient, poor families probably use only a little cocoa, while the richer, more chocolatey versions would be more upscale.