I’ve recently discovered a passion for pairing chiles with chocolate. It began when Marx Foods contacted me regarding a food blogger recipe challenge they are hosting. Participants received six samples of chiles ranging from mild to melt your taste buds off. The contest, “A Chile and A Spoon” involved creating a recipe using any of the chile samples and posting the recipe on your food blog.
Pairing chiles with chocolate was unfamiliar to me, so I took time to engage in research. I knew the Aztecs added hot chile peppers to a chocolate drink, but that was about the extent of my knowledge. What I discovered has led to culinary exploration as I experiment with different types of chocolates and chiles.
The easiest way to incorporate chiles into chocolate dishes is to make homemade chile powder. It is super easy to make freshly ground chile powder and chances are once you whip up a batch, you’ll never buy this spice in a jar again.
When making homemade chile powder, start with dried chiles. Roast them in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Toss them around in the pan to ensure even heating. Chiles are ready for grinding once they become aromatic and droplets of oil appear on the skin. It takes about 6 to 8 minutes to roast chiles.
Transfer chiles to a coffee grinder or food processor and pulsate for 30 to 45 seconds. Open the lid away from your face to avoid inhaling the powder. Transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature.
The key to pairing chiles with chocolate is to understand the flavor profiles of each. It’s also important to know how chocolate will taste after it is baked, heated, chilled, etc. According to Serious Eats at Portfo.Li, “your chocolate may taste berry-like, herbal, citrusy, roasty and coffee-like, floral, or a number of other flavors.”
TCHO Chocolate offers a detailed explanation of how to taste chocolate. It begins with gently massaging the chocolate to warm it up so you can get a good whiff of its smell. The process continues with looking at the chocolate color consistency and shine. The shinier the chocolate, the better it will taste.
Once you decide on the chocolate and understand its flavor profile, it’s time to choose the chiles. It’s best to start off with mild chiles such as Cascabel and Guajillo, but if you prefer to kick up the heat a notch go for Puya, Smoked Serrano, or Ancho.
Super hot chiles such as Tepin, Thai, Ghost, or Habaneros are best suited for baked goods such as chocolate lava cake, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate cookies, biscotti, or flourless chocolate torte. Baked goods are often covered in frosting or ganache and topped with whipped cream which can ease the burn of chile peppers.
You don’t want to go crazy adding hot chiles to chocolate because you’ll lose the chocolate flavor and only end up with mouth, throat, and esophageal burn. Not something anyone wants from a chocolate dessert.
Chiles can increase the flavor of hot cocoa or homemade chocolate ice cream. Chile powder can be added to icing, frosting, and even whipped cream, if you’re daring enough to try it. The great thing about using chile powder is you can always sprinkle extra on top of the item you’ve created if the heat level isn’t hot enough for you.
If you’re intrigued about pairing chiles with chocolate, start by adding a teaspoon or two of freshly roasted and ground chile powder to your favorite chocolate dessert recipe. Or, try the delicious chile hot chocolate recipe at Chow.com. Once you give it a try chances are you’ll be pairing chiles with all your chocolate recipes!
Marx Foods: Chile Pepper Recipes and Techniques
Portfo.Li: Spice Hunting
TCHO: Health Benefits of Chocolate
ExtremeChocolate.com: Brands of Chocolate