My affair with chocolate began innocently, when I was a little girl. Back then, it was an unapproved, and an occasional long-distance, relationship. Things are different now. My love for chocolate has evolved into more a deep earnest amorous relationship. I am in love with chocolate. There, I said it. (Strangely, though, I feel equally passionate about cinnamon. But, I will save that story for some other day.)
Chocolate, in all its essence, is romantic and is identified with desire. Arguably, one of the truest foods of love. And, if food is an expression, then chocolate is the declaration of love. It arouses the senses, seduces you till you surrender yourself to the temptation.
For me, this wicked devil has to be dark, rich and intense – in its looks, smell and of course the taste (almost bitter). It lures me with its most silky smooth seductive facade when it is raw, warm and slightly runny. I love how it feels when it enters my mouth, making every taste bud feel the luscious goodness. The way it clings to my mouth, evoking a deep sensation while it melts in seconds and merges with my tongue. Dark chocolate’s affinity for sensuality, makes for a sublime, almost erotic eating experience, yet without any guilt. I have reasons to make those claims, because chocolate makes me moan in pleasure. It happens mostly in the privacy of my home, but sometimes shamelessly, in the world outside too.
Illicit, but pure bliss.
So, it is established that my feelings for chocolate is beyond just love.
Besides stirring up wicked passion in me, chocolate also triggers curiosity.
Over the years, reading about food and having watched numerous food shows on TV, I have come to believe that familiar flavors can be experimented with unfamiliar blends to create unconventional tastes. One needs to know the ingredients well to be creative with the blend of flavors. I’ve learnt that if you follow your intuition and effectively marry flavors, you can create something that will excite your senses.
I believe chocolate has a rather exceptional characteristic – it has a complex flavor while being versatile. A bittersweet flavor, mostly used in conservative desserts, is perfectly capable of being adventurous.
This wild side of chocolate has been exploited over the years in different cuisines – both traditional recipes and new age culinary experiments. It is a bold and a brave new world that is open to new flavor pairings and limitations only exist in one’s mind.
One such exciting experiment is the blending of spices with chocolate.
As new and exotic as it may sound, this flavor blend actually dates back to two of the oldest civilizations in the world. This bittersweet cinnamon flavored drink made with cocoa, cinnamon, and chillies, traces its history to the Mayans and Aztecs. The ‘Xocolatl’ was considered as a “Drink of God”, at the same time as an aphrodisiac and something that boosts virility.
Guess now would be good time to reveal that this experiment happened almost a year ago. And this post is actually one from the vault. I had been meaning to try something new with chocolate and coincidentally, it was around the same time that a dear couple-friend Joy & Sumana, suggested that I bake chocolate red chilli muffins.
Having tried chilli-chocolates from Trader Joe’s and Lindt, I knew what the flavor should be like.
So, I decided to go right ahead with giving the “Drink of the Gods” a spin and turn them into a muffins. I’ve made the dark chocolate muffins many a times, the core recipe was nothing new. But, could it be as easy as spiking muffins with red chillies? No. The idea was to get just enough heat from the chilli and not overpowering the chocolate and eventually, killing it.
I took up that challenge. I tweaked my muffins recipe.
It was such fun baking with chocolate and spices. Baking always leaves my kitchen smelling great. And, the aroma of fresh bakes with spices is just heavenly!
When the muffins came out of the oven, they looked smashing.
All well risen beautifully popped-up beauties. These deceiving little devils may look and smell like your regular dark chocolate muffins but wait till you bite into them. The sweet-heat fusion hits you just when it goes down your throat. The flavor goes from intense, mildly sweet and till the chilli kicks in. That is just how I expected it to play out. The muffins that don’t just seduce the gaze and also tickle the taste buds of those who savor them.
This was another glimpse into my life, hopefully one that leaves you with a lingering sweet fiery chocolate aftertaste!
Chocolate Red Chili Muffins (Bakes 12-15 regular muffins)
1 ½ cup flour
¾ cup castor sugar
75 grams dark chocolate
75 grams butter (room temp.)
2 large (3 medium) eggs (room temp.)
1 tspn baking powder
A pinch of salt
½ tspn red chilli powder
A pinch of black pepper
½ tspn finely chopped deseeded red chilli (I soaked them for a few minutes in vinegar & sugar water)
½ cup milk
1 tspn vanilla
Icing sugar to dust (optional)
1) Preheat the oven at 200o C and grease / line the muffin trays with cupcake liners.
2) Blend the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk well.
3) Melt the chocolate (either in a microwave or using a double boiler on a stove top) – This can be made in advance.
4) Mix all the dry ingredients together.
5) Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture.
6) Add milk and vanilla to the batter.
7) Now, add the finely chopped chillies.
8) Fill the batter into the muffin trays up to 3/4th of each mold.
9) Pop it into the pre-heated oven for about 30-45 mins and check for doneness with a toothpick.
10) Let them rest a little bit and dust them with icing sugar and serve.