Spice up Your Sweetheart’s Valentine’s Day

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Valentine’s Day is on Thursday! I was in a store the other day and marveled at the holiday display, overflowing with giant teddy bears and sappy Hallmark cards.

Image: Hungry Happenings

While these cutesy gifts seem appropriate for a grade-school crush, this isn’t really the declaration of love I want to make to my beloved on Valentine’s Day.

cinnamon heartsImage: Not Entirely Arbitrary Review of Food

This year I wanted to make a treat that reflects the passion of the season, a little more Red Hots than Sweathearts if you will. Searching on the Interwebs, I came across a recipe for cinnamon heart bark which was a simple but rather disgusting sounding mix of melted white chocolate and cinnamon candies.

chocolate and spiceImage: Vosges Haut Chocolat

But it got me thinking. At Christmas, Midori gave me a selection of delectable spiced chocolate bars from Dolfin, including one dotted with pink peppercorns, and I’m completely addicted to Vosges’ Oaxaca Chocolate Bar, which blends guajillo and pasilla chilies with bittersweet chocolate. Why not make my own version of these spicy treats in bark form?

Image: Tracey Eckersley

I decided to make two versions. For the first, I simply melted half a pound of good-quality dark chocolate, poured it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and sprinkled a cup of chopped habanero-dusted almonds that I had on hand. The slightly sweet chocolate paired amazingly well with the smoky, spiced nuts but it is an in-your-face flavour!

Image: Tracey Eckersley

I thought that Valentine’s Day calls for something slightly more decadent and perhaps a little more subtle. For the second batch, I added a tablespoon each of cinnamon and ancho chili powder. Since these spices are often used in Mexican hot chocolate and mole, I figured they would pair well with bittersweet chocolate.

Image: Barina Craft on Tumblr

I would have loved to use pepitas (pumpkin seeds) since these are also popular in Mexican dishes but my store didn’t have any. So for crunch I picked up some macadamia nuts because what says luxury more than these buttery treats? I chopped up half a cup of nuts with half a cup of dried cherries to spread these over the melted chocolate.

Image: Tracey Eckersley

This one was a winner. The cinnamon adds a wonderful depth of flavour and balances out the sweetness of the nuts and the fruit, while the chili heat builds slowly on the tongue without overwhelming the palate. Hopefully this will warm my Valentine’s heart!

Image: Wallpaper Store

Recipe: Spicy Mexican Bark

8 oz. good-quality dark chocolate

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

1 Tbsp. ancho chili powder

½ cup macadamia nuts (or other nuts of your choice), chopped

½ cup dried cherries, chopped

Melt chocolate. I used a small crockpot but you can also do this on low heat in the microwave or in a double-boiler.

Add the spices and let sit for 20-30 minutes to allow the flavours to blend, without letting the chocolate to cool to the point of hardening.

Spread the chocolate on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle the nuts and cherries over the chocolate and press lightly.

Chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 30 minutes, then break into pieces.

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