Neil Edley of Sugar Plum Chocolates in Forty Fort once had to don eye protection and a mask when concocting a chocolate bar.
“It’s so hot it’ll burn your lungs if you breathe it in,” the candymaker explained of a bar laced with the flavor of a Thai hot pepper. He smiled despite the dangerous scenario he had just set forth.
Edley and Sugar Plum like it hot, and the company has found great success in infusing chocolate creations with flavors such as Sriracha, but it isn’t the only local chocolatier taking a taste that dates to 1900 B.C. and keeping it fresh by coupling it with odd flavors.
Though Sugar Plum started mixing Sriracha with its chocolate a year ago, the recently launched website srirachachocolates.com is making the products hotter than ever.
“We wanted something spicy and trendy, so Sriracha was the perfect fit,” Edley said.
Edley is no stranger to Sriracha. In fact, it might be hard for him to imagine food without it.
“Oh, never too much,” he answered when asked how much Sriracha is too much while making his sweet confections. “To me, it’s not spicy. I started making Sriracha matzah balls in chicken soup. I put it in my eggs. I make apricot Sriracha glaze for chicken. I put it in everything.”
The line includes potato chips dipped in Sriracha-infused chocolate, a dark chocolate Sriracha bar, Sriracha-dusted chocolate-covered pretzels (milk and white), Sriracha nuts, Sriracha bark that includes the Sriracha nuts, and Devil Whips, which are licorice pieces dunked in Sriracha chocolate.
Sugar Plum turns the heat up in other ways as well.
“We have a whole collection of spicy chocolates, where we get the spiciness from all over the world,” Edley said. “We use Middle Eastern ingredients, ingredients from Africa. We have some products with scorpion pepper in it, which is one of the hottest peppers that comes in at over a million Scoville units.” (A Scoville unit, or SHU, is a measure of pungency of chile peppers.)
Perhaps kicking the tastebuds right in the face isn’t exactly the way you want to enjoy chocolate, though. If so, checking out the truffle case at Ah!Some Chocolates in Shavertown is another option.
Chocolatiers Mary Hepner and Theresa Novak are churning out inspired truffles these days, and though they do have flavors such as mango habanero and caramel chipotle, it’s a take on florals that has the masses flocking.
“Our lavender truffle is very popular. It’s a dark-chocolate truffle,” Novak said. “When people try it, they get the flavor of dark chocolate and, just when they think that it’s not about the lavender and they’re finishing the truffle, as you’re swallowing and it’s at the back of the throat, the flavor of lavender comes through. The nice thing is that, even when you think it’s over, you suddenly get a floral fragrance in your nasal passage. It’s a complicated and more sophisticated journey.”
Ah!Some Chocolates also turns to drink flavors for its chocolate, mainly in the way of espresso and cappuccino truffles – though there’s always room for booze.
“We have some Spanish friends who brought us in a Port. We drink a little, we use a little,” Novak said with a laugh.
Drunken cupcakes are actually the name of the game at Purple Squirrel Pastry Company in Wilkes-Barre, where owner Cindi Pape said the chocolate red wine cupcake is the most popular.
“It’s a chocolate cupcake infused with a red-wine reduction and topped with a red-wine butter cream,” she said. “You use a sweeter red dessert wine. Traditionally, red wine is paired more so with desserts, especially chocolate.”
Purple Squirrel also pairs chocolate with sea-salt caramel for its sea-salt caramel brownies.
“Sea salt has a sweet, savory taste that has great appeal to people,” Pape said. “Salt has a way of enhancing the sweetness in everything.”
Sea salt is also the latest ingredient to flavor the locally famous Gertrude Hawk Smidgen, and the time may be ripe now, post-Easter, to score some at a discount.
If all else fails, every sweets producer quoted here said, one pairing still reigns supreme.
“Chocolate with peanut butter anything,” Pape said. “It’s a classic.”