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Dear Theobroma Cacao…(A love letter with a recipe)

Nov 12, 2012 | Posted in: , , | 0 Comments

In my family—especially on my mother’s side—the love of chocolate spans generations. My great, great aunt, for instance, passed down a chocolate pie recipe to my grandmother Marcia that is at least 116 years old. I’ll share the recipe with you all eventually. Today, though, I want to make my own contribution to my family’s “chocolate history.”

For those of you reading this post who don’t know me well, here’s what you need to understand. My love for chocolate transcends “chocoholism” or “chocolate obsession.” I’ve devoted a large part of my life to chocolate. I’ve spent hours learning how to craft the ideal truffle. I’ve written thousands of words on the topic in various scholarly papers.

There’s one thing I haven’t done—write chocolate, Theobroma cacao—a love letter. Yes, I realize that writing food a letter is quirky and perhaps even a little crazy…a bit mad. However, my letter will speak for the family members of mine who are no longer living, but viewed chocolate in the same way as I do. I mean, I can’t verify their love with certainty. All I know for certain is that I can see the love my great, great aunts, cousins, and grandmothers had for chocolate on their well-worn recipe cards. Oh, and I’ve included my favorite truffle recipe, too.


Dear Theobroma Cacao,

Theobroma cacao, food of the gods, you’ve captured my heart. Is it possible to love you with such fervor that it borders on madness? Didn’t Pedro Calderon de la Barca once write, “Love that is not madness is not love?”

You know as well as I do that many others before me have gone to great lengths to savor your splendors. Remember the time in 1604 when, oh what’s his name, the priest, Francisco Sanchez Enriquez, confessed to his inquisitors (yes, THOSE Spanish Inquisitors) that he had sipped hot chocolate before giving the Holy sacrament? What a troublemaker.

And don’t even get me started on the behavior of those wealthy Spanish women living in the New World. Father Enriquez wasn’t the only one up to no good. Nope. How about Doña Antonia Dejaz? That jezebel—she tried to seduce a man other than her husband with a “magical bowl” of cacao in 1620. Whew. The 17th century was quite randy, huh?

Wait a minute. History gets more interesting in the 18th century. Let’s not forget everyone’s favorite 18th century deviant, The Marquis de Sade. De Sade allegedly mixed Spanish fly with chocolate in 1772 at a lavish ball in Marseilles, and this act soon became a libidinous scandal. This particular scandal, scholars agree, was the result of a rumor that de Sade’s enemies had contrived to send him to prison—a place where he spent most of his life. Even in prison, de Sade requested chocolate on a regular basis.

But my love for you, Theobroma cacao, isn’t misguided and treacherous. It’s a special love—an agape kind of love. Yes, I know how agape love is normally used, yet the term works in this case. Look at what I’ve done for you. All of the truffles I’ve crafted. All of the essays I’ve written. We’re in this for the long haul, aren’t we? I thought it would only be fitting to give you this recipe. You’ll love it.



Spicy Dark Chocolate Truffles

Recipe by Emily Hull, as seen in the February 2012 issue of Stillwater Living Magazine

Kitchen Supplies Needed

  • kitchen scale
  • candy thermometer
  • sharp knife
  • cutting board
  • medium bowl
  • 8 x 8 x 1 ½” baking pan lined with parchment paper
  • blender or food processor
  • emulsion blender (optional)

Spicy Ganache Ingredients

  • 4 ¼  ounces dark chocolate, 64% cacao, chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter, softened and cubed
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur (optional)


Chop chocolate into ½ inch pieces. Place in medium bowl. Set aside.

Bring heavy cream and light corn syrup to a rolling boil. Add the cinnamon and the cayenne pepper and stir. Immediately pour over the chocolate. Let the chocolate and cream mixture rest for 2 minutes.  Using your candy thermometer, ensure that the chocolate mixture has cooled to 95 degrees F. Stir the chocolate and cream mixture until smooth.

Next, add the butter. Stir until the butter disappears and the chocolate appears shiny.**  To deepen the ganache’s flavor, incorporate the vanilla extract and coffee liqueur and stir. Chill the ganache in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes, until firm.

**Tip: Sometimes butter and chocolate do not like to melt completely. This causes lumps. No one wants lumpy ganache. To remedy this, I use an emulsion blender to smooth the ganache. Be sure to place the blender in the bottom of the bowl to prevent chocolate from flying all over your kitchen.

After the ganache has chilled, take a measuring spoon (use ½ tablespoon) or a melon baller, and form ganache into round balls. Smooth the ganache in your palms if needed. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let the ganache dry overnight. The next day, roll the truffles in the Cinnamon Spice Sugar topping (see recipe below). For those of you who are familiar with making truffles, you’ll notice that I’ve omitted dipping the truffles into tempered chocolate before rolling them in the Cinnamon Spice Sugar topping. While this is a nice touch, tempering chocolate is a time-consuming, finicky process. It’s not hard, but it requires practice and patience. My version of the recipe saves you time.

Cinnamon Spice Sugar

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Pour sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper into a blender or food processor. Blend until well combined.

Transfer the cinnamon spice sugar to an 8 x 8 x 1 ½” baking pan lined with parchment paper. Roll truffles in the pan until they are covered in the mixture.

Consume truffles within one week. Go ahead—I dare you to wait that long.

Image credit: Meringue and

Want to tweet about chocolate? Catch me on Twitter @MeringueMemory

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