Earlier this year I was sent some of the new chocolates from Valrhona to play around with. While I made quick work of the rest of them, one stood out in particular: Xocopili, smooth balls of chocolate flavored with a myriad of spices, including a heavy dose of cumin.
Frédéric Bau, a professor and head chocolatier at the fantastic Ecole de Grand Chocolat Valrhona, developed this blend. Except for the life of me, I had no idea what to do with it.
One bite, and any taste of fine bittersweet chocolate was followed by the musky and odorous taste of cumin mixed with other spices. I’d occasionally reach in the plastic bin, pluck out a round of chocolate, and eat it. Only to regret that decision a few seconds later, and I’d snap the lid back on and stow it away.
My friends at Valrhona told me it was developed for professional pastry chefs, but I was wondering what kind of pastry chef wouldn’t make their own spice blend for their chocolate confections, so they could control the amount precisely? And in the case of one pastry chef I know, intimately, he’d certainly omit the cumin.
So I started making frequent batches of mole, drawing a blank as to what to do with the rest of it, especially in terms of dessert. When I noticed the expiration date a-callin’, I pulled out my recipe for Warm Individual Chocolate Cakes, and adapted it using this chocolate.
Parisians seem to like cumin with chocolate, surprisingly. Although many of them don’t share our love of hot or spicy food, for some reason they find the combination of chocolate and cumin more intriguing than I do. I haven’t figured out why, but if Valrhona ever wants someone to develop another spiced-chocolate blend, I’m available.
However all friends, both American and French who tasted these cakes, liked them lot. I mean, what’s not to like about a warm, just-from-the-oven, oozing chocolate cake with a scoop of cool Pineapple Sorbet melting over it? Still, next time I make them, I’ll stick with regular Valrhona chocolate, or another one—sans cumin.
In the meantime, I’ve got a half a bin of Xocopili left.
In case anyone else has any ideas they care to share…
Warm Individual Spiced Chocolate Cakes
Makes six cakes
Adapted from The Great Book of Chocolate (Ten Speed)
The great thing about these hyper-chocolate cakes is they can be made in advance, left at room temperature for an hour or two, then cooked at the last minute. You can also refrigerate them and let them come to room temperature before baking them off. I like to serve them with cool sorbet alongside, as a contrast to the rich, deep chocolate flavor. Chocolate sauce is optional, but always welcome.
- 10 ounces (285 g) Xocopili, or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 tablespoons (60 g) salted butter
- 4 tablespoons (50 g) sugar, divided
- 4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon brandy or rum
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- big pinch of ground cloves
- a few turns freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
2. Butter six heatproof coffee or custard cups. Dust the insides with sugar and tap out any excess.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, melt the chocolate and butter over a pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in half of the sugar, then the yolks. Then mix in the vanilla, brandy, and spices.
4. In a clean, dry bowl, whip the egg whites until fairly stiff. Beat in the sugar, and whisk until the whites form soft, droopy peaks.
5. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder, just until incorporated. Don’t overfold.
6. Divide the batter into the prepared cups.
7. Bake the cakes for 10 to 12 minutes, just until the tops feel firm. Once done, remove the cakes from oven and cool for a minute before serving.
Serving: If you wish, unmold the cakes onto plates for serving, or serve as is. Top with a scoop of ice cream, sorbet, or a dollop of whipped cream.
Related Links and Recipes
Xocophili chocolate balls are available at Chocosphere
You can find Xocopili in Paris at G. Detou
Valrhona chocolate’s website
Pascale’s coup de foudre for Xocopili.
The Best Chocolate Sauce, Ever (Recipe)
Very Chocolate Cookies (Recipe)
More interesting chocolates
Chocolate Idiot Cake (Recipe)