Saturday, February 5, 2011

Two Kinds of Hot, Cocoa: Caliente Y Picante!

This vignette's brief. But, it perfectly suits my mood, today – hot 'n spicy!
All the snow, rain and ice are getting to this Cali girl. So, I've decided to warm things up and to get creative over a cup of cocoa.

Still here in the eastern side of the continent, I'm dreaming of warmer climes, like the beaches of the Yucatan, or Veracruz and Mexico's Eastern shores, where I have found inspiration. Like the stacking platforms of the Mexican pyramid of Chichen Itza, this latest cup of cocoa is hot on multiple levels.

I've added to a milk chocolate for hot cocoa base, a healthy dose of Kahlua and, get this, hot sauce. Yep, you read correctly, hot sauce. My measurements are far from exact, less about science and more to taste. And wonderfully, the organically measured dose of habanero pepper sauce has added a warm dimension and subtle heat to a traditional flavor. The hot sauce, with its tongue-tingling savory heat, is the perfect punctuation to the Kahlua's mellow sweetness and slightly bitter, coffee-enhanced zing.

Further, and tipping the cup's flavor scale back toward sweet, I've dropped a generous dollop of cinnamon whipped cream to bring the beverage into balance. Cinnamon sticks, and a coffee bean provide a lovely garnish and visual finish.

Mind you, I do not recommended blending hot sauce with white chocolate cocoas, as the sweetness produced, I found, a collision of flavor that lacked the saturated and harmonious heat, a milk or even dark chocolate blend created.

El Yucateca brand red pepper sauce is my current flavor of choice -- it impressed me when it was spritzed over my New Year's Day, eaten-for-good luck, black-eyed peas -- though any other brand like Tabasco, Tapatio, Red Rooster, etc., would probably do as well.  El Yucateca, though, made with habanero peppers, packs a wallop that the aforementioned brands, made with chili peppers, can't match.

Also worth note, bypass mocha flavored chocolates too if you're hitting the "Kahlua con spicy." Paired with strong insinuations of coffee brought on by the Kahlua, mocha chocolate overpowered the heat of the pepper sauce.

This one was memorable, and touched on most all of the six types of taste: bitter, sweet, sour, salty, unami and, of course, spicy. Also surprisingly robust, the flavor melange left an aftertaste that was equally complex and haunting, like the winding feathered serpent shadows cast by the main pyramid in Chichen Itza, a Mayan architectural treasure.

(c) 2011 Valerie Williams-Sanchez

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