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3rdChocolate, and the classic combinations of chocolate and nuts or chocolate and fruit, never go out of style or season, but every now and then it is worth trying a new twist on the classics. This Christmas season, how about indulging in the odd-sounding yet extremely trendy combo of dark chocolate and chilli?

Do a quick Google search and you will find chocolate and chilli brownies, cupcakes, cake pops, tarts and truffles. However, this fusion of sweet and spicy is not new at all. Although most accounts credit the Aztecs with its discovery, it was the Mayas who first mixed roasted cacao seed paste with water, chilli peppers and cornmeal to produce a hot foamy drink. When the Aztecs took over a sizable portion of Mesoamerica in 1400, they imported vast quantities of cacao beans and created their own bitter spicy drink called ‘xocolatl’ which was seasoned with vanilla and chilli pepper. Usually consumed cold, xocolatl was supposed to be an aphrodisiac.

While South American home cooks have been using chocolate in savoury dishes and chilli in pastries as part of their cuisine for generations, it was only recently that the chocolate chilli combination has gained global renown. The big chocolate brands have launched gourmet flavours such as dark chocolate and chilli, hot grenadine and chocolate, and chilli and orange. Food manufacturers have introduced chocolate chilli cake mixes and chilli flavoured chocolate and food bloggers are working overtime to create a massive range of desserts with this trendy combination.

This Christmas, for a gentle introduction to the chocolate-chilli world, add a dash of cayenne pepper to your hot chocolate or chocolate chip cookies mix. If you are feeling decidedly adventurous, dip whole jalapenos or green chillies in semi-sweet chocolate and leave to dry on wax paper, then drizzle with white chocolate and enjoy your hot and sweet Christmas treat.

Have a peaceful Christmas.

– Marylou Andrew