Ghost in the Chocolate


No sooner did I think that habañero and Scotch bonnet peppers were the hottest chiles in the world than the ghost pepper wrested that title away. At a Scoville scale between 300,000 and 1,000,000 units, it is armed and dangerous. Then in 2012, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper was declared the absolute ruler at a blistering Scoville scale of up to 2,000,000 units, lethal enough to do serious bodily harm. Can people actually eat this stuff and still have a stomach left? The idea of combining chiles and chocolate goes as far back as the Aztecs, who must have discovered earthly pleasure in their union. Molé poblano, that complex sauce made in the Pueblan and Oaxacan states of Mexico, is nothing more than a marriage of chocolate and dried chiles with nuts, spices, herbs and dried fruit tossed in.

So, it was no surprise that confectioners started doing some experimentation of their own. Theo Chocolate, headquartered in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, makes Ghost Chili Salted Caramel in Dark Chocolate (☆☆☆☆). Salted caramel wrapped in dark chocolate by itself is divine, but the additions of ground ghost and ancho chiles, with a sprinkling of Hawaiian red sea salt and chile flakes on top, are an unbelievably sublime recipe. Contrary to what you might think, the chile is not blistering at all, but instead sneaks up on you with a tolerable flame in the mouth and definite tingle in the throat, definitely not just for the adventurous and cast-iron-stomached. Which begs the question of why use this blistering chile at all if not to exploit its fiery fury. Theo claims that ghost chiles have an exquisite flavor. It is without doubt my favorite chocolate candy, even more than truffles—or Snickers. At $8 for a box of four, they are an indulgence.

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