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Artisan Chocolate truffles & the spices that love them: cayenne pepper

by Chef Eric Cayton

Cayenne peppers are a medium to large red chili, related to the nightshade family. It is named in honor of the city of Cayenne, in French Guiana, South America. In terms of pure scorching heat, this wonderful chili surely ranks up there with the best of them! Whether eaten raw, or dried and ground into a powder, Cayenne will bring the pain, and maybe even a tear to your eye! Adding too much of this potent chili to a dish, will quickly overpower all other ingredients and render it inedible. But there is a subtle sophistication to Cayenne too. One particularly fine example of this sophistication, is the careful finesse it requires, when adding it to chocolate truffles.

Many people are under the false notion that adding hot chilies to chocolate is a relatively modern invention; not true I say! This misconception is largely due to the 2000 release of the move, Chocolat, as well as other references to the combination in popular culture. The Aztec people in Central America began adding hot chilies, along with indigenous flowers, spices, and even corn meal, to their chocolate, over a thousand years ago. From this magical mixture, they created a drink that the Aztec ruling class considered sacred. It was called Xocolatl....and this stuff was so extraordinary, that people lost their heads over it...literally! The elixer was reserved strictly for men, and strictly for the elite, and if you didn't fit the profile, and were caught drinking Xocolatl, well...let's just say you were not treated kindly!

To create an artisan chocolate truffle with Cayenne chili in it, you need a restrained hand. A little bit of this stuff goes a very long way, so taste your ganache as you prepare it, to ensure you're not going to kill anyone with it! Many Chocolatiers prefer to produce their chocolate and chili combinations, using solely a bittersweet chocolate. I agree to a point, yet I think you miss out on a key opportunity here. If you do not add another component to this powerful mixture, the bittersweet chocolate and scorching hot Cayenne chili, can be a bit overpowering. So my advice would be, to go ahead and prepare the ganache with bittersweet chocolate, but then perhaps dip the truffle in a milk or even white chocolate couverture. This way, you have a balance to the finished piece, and a cooling-off effect.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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