Aztec Chocolate Bark

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New world Chocolate Bark with semi-sweet chocolate, cinnamon, chili pepper, and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Apparently peppermint bark just isn’t everyone’s favorite winter candy, and admittedly once in a while I get a bit tired of the same ‘ol treats. This however, this is something completely different.

Chocolate was brought to Europe by the conquistadores, who were introduced to it by the Aztecs in what is now modern day Mexico.

Prized by the Aztecs, the cacao was ground into a drink and flavored with chili, cinnamon, and honey. “Xocolatl” was often served during important ceremonies and was thought to improve one’s stamina and help fight fatigue.

Aztec Chocolate Bark

While not an exact recipe, the flavor echoes from those earlier and exotic times. This chocolate bark is studded with toasted pumpkin seeds, ancho chili, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper creating a nutty, seasonal, and spicy treat.

I suggest using some high quality chocolate to ensure superior bark, and you can usually find hulled pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) at your local natural foods store or Whole Foods.

If you are having troubles finding ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder could be used in a pinch as well while adding a slightly smoky flavor.

Aztec Chocolate Bark Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of hulled, unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, plus a dash extra
  • 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, plus a dash extra
  • 3/4 teaspoon of ancho chili powder, plus a dash extra
  • 12 oz. of bitter or semi-sweet chocolate

Method

1 Toast the pumpkin seeds: Place the pumpkin seeds in a skillet over medium-low heat. Toast the pumpkin seeds for about 5 minutes, they'll pop and jump a bit as they release their oils and moisture. Allow to cool.

2 Melt chocolate, stir in spices, pumpkin seeds: Melt the chocolate according to the manufacturer's directions. Once melted add the cinnamon, cayenne pepper, ancho chili powder, and most of the pumpkin seeds saving some to decorate the top with.

3 Spread on lined baking sheet and chill: Spread onto a flat baking pan lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Sprinkle over and press into the chocolate the last few pumpkin seeds and sprinkle on a dash more of the spices for color and taste.

Place in the freezer for 5 minutes or until hardened. Break into pieces and serve or store in the fridge in an airtight container. Best consumed in one or two days.

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Garrett McCord

Garrett McCord is a professional writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in many print and online publications such as Gourmet Live, Saveur, Huffington Post, Smithsonian, and NPR. Past clients also include numerous food companies, wineries, and distilleries. Garrett writes about cocktails on his website, Coupe de Grace.

More from Garrett

Links:

History of Chocolate - Wikipedia

How to temper chocolate - useful advice from David Lebovitz if you are planning on making the Aztec bark and not eating it right away

Showing 4 of 11 Comments

  • Adiel

    I actually tried the recipe and ended up burning my mouth!
    I used Jalapeno as the pepper as I could not find the right chilli at my local store, then realized I can get them from a specialty online shop in the UK http://mexika.co.uk/product-category/mexican-pantry/dried-chillies/ they do the chocolate too, I may give it a second attempt, but this time with the right stuff!

  • Kate

    Cost Plus also carries pepitas, FYI.

  • David Daniels

    Sounds tasty. I love chocolate and this is an interesting twist. Ancho chile powder can also be made by getting whole dried ancho chiles (Most grocery stores carry them) and grinding them in a spice or coffee grinder. Ancho chiles are dried jalapenos and are also good in moles. I’m going to have to try this.

  • Kevin

    I made this last night and the results were heavenly. I tried giving some to my godchildren, who are usually scared of chile, and they loved it. Of course, at first I didn’t tell them that it had chile in it! To get the ancho chile powder I bought whole dried ancho chiles and toasted them for about 12 minutes in a 325 degree oven. I then ground them in my spice/coffee grinder.

  • Mia

    I made this last night and instead of the cayenne, I used some dried orange peel. I used the ancho chile powder though. I am taking it to a holiday party tonight.

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