My friend gave me a bar of Belgian chocolate. Ah, I thought, what luck and I sat back to indulge in exotic chocolate. Fully satiated, I almost threw away the wrapper into the bin till I saw the word Malabar on it. It turned out to be Zaabar’s Duo range of dark chocolate with Cardamom from Malabar.Yes, Kerala, God’s Own Country.
Hot Chili chocolate from Fantasie Fine Chocolates
Umm…I was impressed, and those swirls of chocolate, yeah you guessed right, put me on to the Spice Mode. Ok, now you know that we are talking about spice and chocolate. Outwardly, the thought may be difficult to digest but spice and chocolate are a deadly combo. When you think about it, it’s not difficult to guess what a sprinkling of spices can do to a bar of chocolate.
Spice is seen as a welcome tartness or tanginess to otherwise oversweet chocolates. Chocolate makers have cleverly used spice properties in their creation to give it a zing element or value-add. For instance, going beyond the obvious fresh, pungent smell of ginger, chocolatiers use ginger extracts because it’s anti inflammatory and has calming powers. On its part, cardamom facilitates digestion.Chocolate makers argue that spice in chocolate is one way of getting kids to eat spice or familiarise them with savoury or hot flavours.
Let’s not forget that the domestic chocolate consumer is widely traveled and has adapted foreign chocolate flavours. Brands like Chicago-based Vosges Haut Chocolat use Mexican chilies, cinnamon and ginger in its chocolates. Amedei chocolates from Tuscany, Italy offers a dark, bittersweet chocolate bar called Porcelona bar, known for its subtle flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg
Thanks to these brands, many Indian consumers have got used to the presence of spice in chocolates. For them, it’s an acquired taste.
Mumbai-based chocolatier Zeba Kohli realised the spicy effect on chocolates well ahead of many desi chocolate makers. Kohli launched Cutting Chai with Cardamom Chocolate 20 years ago, and the Wasabi and Chilly Chocolate over 10 years ago. Chocoholics took to it instantly, encouraging her to play around with spice flavours and toppings. “We love to experiment with a variety of spices. Cinnamon works well with our Mocca Chocolate or our medium dark creamy chocolate, cardamom works well with our tea bonbon and soft molten caramel centers,” said Zeba Kohli managing director, Good Housekeeping Company Pvt Ltd, which manufactures and markets chocolates under the brand Fantasie Fine Chocolates.
Spices do not cut the fat content, they enhance flavours. “Spices add a nice and interesting twist to flavours. These add a new dimension to a product. Example, if you put in a touch of salt to caramel, it exudes a wonderful rounded flavour on the palette. Similarly, if you include a touch of fresh roasted paprika or basil to a creamy white chocolate, it opens up a whole vista of flavours in the mouth,” felt Kohli.
Just as cheese and coffee have made it to the confectionery table, likewise an assortment of spices has become integral to chocolates. Soft, smooth and luxurious, these decadent chocolates let out sharp flavours of spices.This contrast makes it delicious. Bengaluru’s Chocolatier Couple Anupama and Amarnath, who run Chocolate Junction, have created a market for their chili chocolates. The initial smooth creaminess of chocolate gently gives way to hints of pungent chilies at the end. “We introduced chili chocolates four years ago based on customer requests. It is a hit with people from the armed forces,” explained Anupama and added, “We have just done a cardamom-chili-cinnamon flavoured range for a retail outlet. By and large, chili is popular and it helps decongest naturally. We use it in the form of chili flakes.”
Spicy chocolates which were Halloween Treats in the International markets are now an all year round favourite, both in India and abroad. Many of these are made-to-order designer chocolates.
All I can say is that the presence of exotic spices in chocolates packs in a punch. It results in textural contrasts, colour tones and diverse flavours which create a new meaning for the chocolate. It extends the frontier for both the chocolate maker and consumer as well.
It’s a delicious thought and a wonderful experience. What do you say?