Cayenne Pepper in Your Chocolate

Elizabeth Soloff handcrafts chocolates that make weak-kneed customers moan for more.

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Elizabeth SoloffIn a café that could be on Paris’s Left Bank, Elizabeth Soloff handcrafts chocolates that make weak-kneed customers moan for more. She starts with rich hunks of dark cacao from the Dominican Republic. “I heat the chocolate to the point where it starts to fluff,” says Soloff, “instead of adding egg, lecithin, gum and all that.” She pours in pure cacao liqueur and agave nectar, then sculpts the concoction around organic fruits and nuts. For $1.50, customers can bite into chocolate-covered macaroons, apple-bananas or almond-stuffed figs. But the real wow comes from a fiery secret ingredient: cayenne.

The South American spice purportedly improves circulation and purifies the blood. The result is outstanding—a dark chocolate morsel shot through with an arrow of invigorating warmth. Even the espresso at Café Chocolat benefits from a sprinkle of cayenne, served in dainty porcelain cups with agave nectar and a sliver of lemon rind. “Hottest is best,” says Soloff, who stirs in a pinch rated at 90,000 heat units. (Heat units rank a spice’s pungency, or fire registered on the tongue.) When the Dalai Lama comes to Pa‘ia this April, we won’t be surprised if the crowds on pilgrimage line out the door here for another sort of divine inspiration: spiced chocolates. Says Soloff: “It’s all in regulating the heat.” Indeed.

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