Challenging Elements: Chili Powder

Published on: September 10th, 2009

Our favorite part of doing this column is that moment when we call the chef, tell them the ingredient and then listen to the pause immediately after, when you can practically hear the wheels turning with ideas.

And when the chef, in this case, Nicole Hedlund of A Grand Finale bakery, says something like, “Wow, you really threw me for a loop,” we practically clap our hands with glee.

It’s not that we’re such sadists that we want to freak these chefs out, but that moment of throwing someone for a loop practically ensures that we’re going to get something spectacular. It means we’re making them think outside the box.

That’s what we got when we gave Hedlund chili powder for her secret ingredient. Hedlund is a pastry chef by trade and owner of A Grande Finale bakery in Louisville and her newest, only months-old location in Lafayette. With more than 20 years experience as a pastry chef and more than 10 years at the helm of A Grande Finale, we knew she could handle a little bit of a loop.

We certainly weren’t disappointed. The sculptural pastry she produced exceeded our expectations by being as gorgeous and spectacular as it was delicious. Hedlund calls it the chocolate fireball, a fitting name for a powerful pastry. It starts with a base of the bakery’s signature chocolate cake, topped with a chocolate mousse spiked with chili powder, covered with a dark chocolate ganache, and then decorated with a red velvet cocoa butter spray and a fluttering jewel of gold leaf.
Hedlund told us she had tried chili truffles before but had never combined the flavor with the bakery’s signature chocolate mousse. The results, we all agreed, were phenomenal.

The chili hits each person differently; it starts subtly, playing with the flavors of the chocolate, then builds to a spicy crescendo and peaks with a slow burn at the back of the tongue, making you long for another bite of that cool mousse to start the whole process again.

Rich and decadent, you find yourself wondering if you can finish the whole thing alone, but definitely not wanting to share. In our opinion, that’s the sort of beautiful dilemma every dessert should inspire; just don’t ask us for a bite.

Look for the chocolate fireball at A Grande Finale at 641 Main St. in Louisville or at their new location at 489 N. Hwy. 287 #100 in Lafayette, or visit their website at agrandefinale.com for more information.

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