Barbara of Tigers & Strawberries has come up with another great theme for the second round of the Spice Is Right. It didn’t take me long to think of a spice for this event – Chili Peppers! As bizaare as this may sound chilis can be used in a dessert, something I found out a year ago when I tried the Chili Chocolate Crème Brulee at M Café (I’m quite adventurous when it comes to food). To my surprise, the combination of chili and chocolate went really well together. It’s now one of my favorite desserts.
Chilis or Sili, as we call it in the Pilippines, is used sparingly in some native savory dishes especially in the provinces of Bicol and Mindanao. Bicol is in the northern part of the Philippines and Mindanao in the southern part. Although, most Philippine dishes do not use sili, many of our condiments do and usually come in either plain, sweet or spicy flavors. For example vinegar is either plain or spicy. Spicy vinegar is made by infusing vinegar with whole chilis and leaving it in the bottle giving it a decorative look. Bagoong (fermented shrimp paste) comes in plain, sweet and spicy flavors. Soy sauce is mixed with chopped chilis or chili oil and served on the side. The amount of heat depends more on the variety of chili being used. The spiciest being sili labuyo and the milder one just plain sili. Siling labuyo which was in the Guiness Book of World Records for being the hottest chili in the world with a heat scale rating of up to 100,000 Scoville Units, but that was corrected and Mexican habanero chilis are found to be the hottest with a heat scale range of 100,000 to 500,000 Scoville Units. Whatever the case, this gives you an idea of how hot silis are! The other variety, called sili, is a mild chili and is usually used in cooking spicy dishes. One thing I found out is that the longer you leave a dish that has chili in it the spicier it gets so don’t leave leftovers for too long.
My first experience with siling labuyo was not a pleasant one. When I was a child I was playing at a neighbors house and happened to see a chili pepper plant. Thinking my yaya (thats nanny in plain English) said “cherries” I quickly grabbed one and popped it in my mouth. The resulting explosion, and that’s what it felt like, left me in pain for a couple of hours. That’s one experience I will never forget. But, the past being the past I now enjoy spicy food to the extent of adding it to sweets. So here I bring you Chili Chocolate Truffles. Trust me, it really is good.
These are delicious, but the recipe can be improved. I will change the use of cayenne the next time around. The flavor of chili peppers just didn’t come through. It had a hint of spiciness but lacked flavor. The next time I make these truffles I’m infusing the cream with fresh whole chilis. I also added 2 teaspoons of powdered sugar to the cocoa powder, I find covering the chocolate balls with pure cocoa too bitter.
Makes 18 to 20 small truffles
10 oz (280 g) bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup (50 mL) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (125 mL) whipping cream
1 tbsp (15 mL) liquid honey or maple syrup
1/2 tsp (2 mL) cayenne pepper
1/4 cup (50 mL) cocoa powder + 2 tsp. powdered sugar
1. Finely chop chocolate with a knife or in a food processor. Place in a large bowl with butter. Pour cream into a small saucepan and set over medium heat. As soon as cream boils, remove from heat. Then pour over chocolate and butter. Stir until melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in honey and cayenne. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.
2. To make truffles, scoop out a small amount of mixture with a melon baller. Use your hands to shape chocolate into 1- to 2-inch (2.5- to 5-cm) balls. Set each ball on plate or in a container. If your in a warm climate like I am, you will have to return the bowl of chocolate and the balls of chocolate to the fridge and continue when chocolate has hardened, about 15-20 minutes. I had to do this about 4 times.
3. Sift cocoa powder and powdered sugar into a small bowl, whisk well to combine. Place one truffle in bowl. Gently roll to completely coat. Shake off excess. Return to container. Repeat with remaining truffles. Separate truffles by layering between sheets of wax paper. Refrigerate. Truffles keep well up to 5 days.