I’m a sucker for good chocolate and candies.
This doesn’t apply to M&M’s or Swedish fish, though I like both of them.
Creamy truffles and gooey salted caramels get my attention. They’re the kind of treats I usually find when I’m out of town.
On Friday, my workday brought me to Asheville, North Carolina. Locals know it as an artsy, hilly, mecca for creativity and open-mindedness.
It also has a few chocolate shops.
I had just enough time to pop into one of them.
I got two salted caramels and 4 chocolate truffles.
The silky-smooth dome of the truffle had a light sprinkle of pink dust. The flavor combination was perfect.
A pink peppercorn isn’t really its namesake. Yes, it’s pink. But it’s not a peppercorn.
Each tiny ball is light and airy, almost crispy and delicate. It’s not hard, that’s why the pepper grinder isn’t the best place for it. The wispy outside protects an aromatic, practically hollow center.
In terms of flavor, it’s flowery and slightly fruity with a hint of heat.
When combined with the chocolate, your senses go a bit crazy in that savory/sweet sort of way.
The creamy, depth of the ganache goes perfectly with all the notes of the pink peppercorn.
It’s not spicy. It’s just floral. I love citrus with chocolate, and the slight fruitiness of the pink peppercorn mimics that pairing.
I made an easy dark chocolate and pink peppercorn pudding.
Good, luscious pudding uses eggs. The instant stuff uses a quick thickener like cornstarch.
You can certainly use eggs if you want to do the double-boiler and tempering thing. I didn’t want to deal with all that.
Instead of cornstarch, I used arrowroot. It’s a starch from the underground stem (rhizome) of tropical plants. It makes for a clear sauce, and it doesn’t have its own flavor. It’s also gluten-free! The name is said to come from one of its original uses, treating the wounds from poisoned arrows.
Here’s what you need:
¼ cup dark cocoa powder
¼ cup arrowroot
¼ cup, plus 2 tbsp. sugar
2 pinches of kosher salt
2 cups 2% milk
2 tbsp. semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 tsp. pink peppercorns
Here’s how you do it:
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the arrowroot, cocoa, sugar, and ground pink peppercorns.
Put the pan on the burner and turn on the heat to medium. Add half of the milk, and whisk. You want to make sure all of the dry ingredients dissolve. Alternate between the whisk and a silicon spoon or spatula if necessary.
Once it’s combined, add the rest of the milk, and whisk.
After the mixture is heated, about 3-4 minutes later, add the chocolate chips. Stir.
Continuously stir and/or whisk the mixture over heat, until it thickens.
It’ll take about 10 minutes to thicken.
Divide the mixture into 4 ramekins.
Chill for 3-4 hours.
If you’re like my partner in cuisine crime and happen to hate the skin that forms on top of instant puddings, then drape some plastic wrap directly onto each ramekin, allowing it to touch the pudding itself. Otherwise, there’s no need to cover the dishes.
I served this two ways:
With a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of fleur de sel (sea salt that melts in your mouth).
For the second serving, I topped the pudding with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of orange zest. The citrus brings out the fruitiness of the pink peppercorns.
Tip: Put sliced strawberries or cherries in the bottom of each ramekin before pouring in the pudding.