Yes, more Piment d’Espelette! I’ve posted my goat’s cheese fritters with a spicy Piment d’Espelette chutney, and now we move onto the dessert. I also submitted this to the competition run by the association of Piment d’Espelette producers, so again, fingers crossed!
Chocolate and chilli are a common combination (I’ll hold off on “classic” as I am not usually a fan…I want desserts to be sweet, not to burn), but this got me thinking: Piment d’Espelette is not so hot, so would it work in a chocolate dessert for those that don’t like hot chilli? But the colour – I was a little put off by the fact that it would just look like another dark chocolate dessert. Ah, but what if I were to use white chocolate? I reasoned that the colour of the Piment d’Espelette would diffuse into the cream and chocolate, and the flecks of red would be visible in the finished cake. With these thoughts, I ventured into my kitchen.
One of the rules in the competition was that you had to come up with a recipe from scratch. I sensed that there was potential for my attempts to be rather “unusual”, so rather than making whole tarts, I started making small batches of white chocolate ganache in ramekins to test my ideas.
Attempt number one – create an infusion of Piment d’Espelette and mountain honey in water, then add to the white chocolate. The theory was that this would provide a clean, light flavour, highlighting the Piment. Too bad it didn’t set. In fact, it sort of separated, with a clotted-cream-type crust on top, and then a layer of liquid chocolate, then all the Piment at the bottom. Not a success.
Attempt number two – back to the classic ganache. I put cream, Piment and some mountain honey in a pan, and allowed it to infuse for half an hour. Heated it, added it to chopped white chocolate, stirred until melted, put in a saucepan to melt it properly (as, ahm, not all the chocolate melted first time), then added butter. Result! A smooth filling with a bright peachy-orange colour and flecked with red. It flowed, set as it was supposed to in the fridge, and cut perfectly. I served it at room temperature, and the filling did exactly what I wanted – stayed firm but not hard, but cut easily.
And the taste? The initial flavour was of white chocolate, but then it gives way to the fleshy earthiness of the Piment (like red peppers) and the honey. Then you get the warmth of the Piment, but it does not get hot. I think this is a nice way to use Piment in a dessert, making a feature of it rather than just adding a pinch as decoration. I can imagine that this would also work with other strongly-coloured spices (saffron for a golden ganache) or even with a spoonful of beetroot juice into the cream (if you like bright pink).
For the tart:
• one basic sweet pie shell (see here)
• 300g white chocolate
• 125ml double cream
• 2 teaspoons runny honey (thyme or orange blossom)
• 1 generous teaspoon of Piment d’Espelette (or mild chilli powder)
• 80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
Mix the honey, cream and Piment d’Espelette in a saucepan and leave to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This allows the cream to take on the colour of the Piment. In the meantime, chop the chocolate into very small pieces and put into a bowl.
Heat the cream mixture, stirring well. Bring to the boil, and cook for 30 seconds. Allow to cool briefly, then pour over the chopped chocolate. Stir well until the chocolate has melted. If there are still lumps of chocolate, then transfer to the saucepan and heat very gently, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Transfer back to the bowl.
Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Add the butter and stir until it melts and you have a smooth, glossy ganache. Pour immediately into the pie shell, and shake lightly to smooth the filling off. Allow to cool, then move to the fridge to set. Serve at room temperature, in thin slices.
Worth making? I have tried for a long time to make a white chocolate ganache (for pies, for cakes, for truffles) which stays smooth but sets properly, and I am really happy with this recipe. If you’re not a fan of the Piment, you could easily omit this, and instead use vanilla and top off with fresh fruit – ripe raspberries or juicy strawberries. It makes an ideal dinner party dessert too – it can be prepared completely in advance, so no running around in the kitchen while your guests have fun.