On Saturday night, we had the pleasure of attending the fourth edition of the Paris Potluck, hosted by Alisa and her husband Jean-Yves. This time around, Alisa had suggested that we follow a theme : no more random assortment of everyone’s current food obessions! And as she (and I and pretty much everyone else) had been suffering from terrible Mexican food cravings since moving to Paris, her theme of choice was Mexican, as announced happily in an email with multicolored letters.
As always, I toyed with different ideas for a while, and waited until the very last minute to decide what I was going to make. I asked Alisa what everyone was bringing, and she told me that appetizers and main courses were well covered, so a dessert would round out the menu nicely. I’ve never been a big fan of the desserts they served at Mexican restaurants in California (much less in Paris, where the Mexican restaurants I’ve tried are an insult to Mexican cuisine), so I decided to just come up with my own idea of a Mexican dessert.
So. Mexican dessert… Inspiration struck : chocolate and chili are both very Mexican, right? How about adding ground chili to my dear melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake? And since this is a very rich cake and my petit-four silicon molds are begging to be used, stomping their tiny little feet in my kitchen cabinet, how about baking mini bites of chocolate and chili cake?
And so after a fabulous Mexican food bonanza — margaritas, three kinds of salsa, guacamole, tortilla chips, two kinds of enchiladas, chicken mole, spicy shrimp, zucchini and corn salad, cactus salad, refried beans, oh how I missed you guys — desserts were brought to the table : a delicious lime pie, wonderful crepes with pecans and homemade dulce de leche, and a bowl of my Chocolate and Chili Bites.
Those little bites are a delightful rollercoaster in taste. You pick one up, study it with curiosity because you’ve been told there’s chili in there, but it looks harmless enough so you pop it into your mouth. At first, all you’re aware of is the moist and intensely flavorful chocolate cake, with its little crusty top. And then, as an afterthought, just when you’re starting to wonder well, where did the chili go, there it comes, and a miniature heatwave invades your mouth. And as your palate tingles, you have to laugh at the spicy little trick that’s just been played on your tastebuds, and hop gaily onto the rollercoaster again.
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- 200 grams (7 ounces, 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) butter
- 200 grams (7 ounces) good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
- 160 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 rounded tablespoon all-purpose flour (use a gluten-free flour as needed, or omit the flour entirely)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground chili pepper (I use piment d'Espelette -- adjust to your taste and to the strength of your chili)
- a good pinch of fine sea salt
- Pre-heat your oven to 200°C (400°F).
- Melt the butter with the chocolate in a small saucepan or in a bowl in the microwave. If melting in the microwave, be sure to do it slowly, blending with a spoon between each pass.
- Transfer into a mixing bowl, add in the sugar, mix with a wooden spoon and let cool a little. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well with the spoon after each addition. Add a rounded tablespoon of flour, the ground chili and salt, and mix well.
- Pour the dough in the petit four molds, and put into the oven to bake for ten to twelve minutes. The top should look set, but the inside should still be on the soft side.
- Let the the mini bites cool down enough to unmold them, then transfer to a rack to cool completely while you cook the other batches. Store in a plastic container, refrigerate, and take out about an hour prior to serving the next day.