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.
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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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