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Artisan Chocolate truffles & the spices that love them: cardamom

by Chef Eric Cayton

When it comes to unusual and distinctive chocolate and spice combinations, cardamom is one of my favorites. You can find cardamom in most grocery stores these days, but unfortunately, it is almost always ground cardamom. If you can find it in it's natural seed pod, it will yield a much more potent punch when you grind it up yourself in a little coffee grinder, or even better, use a mortar and pestle.

Cardamom is indigenous to India, and the Indian people include it with many of their sweeter dishes. It is also used frequently in South Asian as well as Middle Eastern cuisine. Cardamom also makes an appearance in some Scandinavian breads and pastries. Cardamom seed pods can be found, mostly from online spice purveyors, in two basic colors; green and black. Both varieties will impart a sweet, warm, lemony flavor and aroma to hot beverages, such as chai tea. In some Middle Eastern countries, many households have recipes for combining their strong black coffees with cardamom, creating a very pungent brew. Cardamom also tastes sublime in many baked goods, such as tea cakes, muffins and cookies. But it is the ethereal combination of deep, dark, quality chocolate and cardamom, that I am touting here!

When making truffles with the combination of ground up cardamom seed and bittersweet chocolate, you should be fairly judicious when adding this spice. Cardamom can be extremely overwhelming, so just a gram or two should do you. You should also use a fairly robust chocolate here as well, with a total cacao percentage over 70%, because cardamom needs an equally assertive flavor, in order to bring balance and harmony to the finished truffle. This extraordinary combination could just simply be cut into small squares and dusted in a good cocoa powder, or you could roll the finished ganache into small ovals, and dip them in tempered chocolate for a truly elegant affair.

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