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All About Cayenne Pepper

cartoon chiles graphicYou know the flavor well but did you know that cayenne made its way to you via the Mayflower? Just a dash will add zip to any dish but a bit more makes this recipe for Hot Crackers really sing. 

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All About Cayenne Pepper

by Sandra Bowens

Chile peppers are the most consumed spice in all the world. The fact that there are roughly 100 varieties may contribute to this popularity. Cayenne pepper was long thought to be the hottest of them all but we now know this to be untrue. It is up there on the heat scale, however, weighing in at 35,000 heat units on the Scoville test.

Christopher Columbus introduced the cayenne pepper, among many others, to Europeans as he reported on his explorations of the New World. After landing on Cuba, the crew observed cultivated fields of red peppers referred to as aji by the natives. Later, in Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) they found other aji fruits that the Spanish physician Diego Chanca termed "red pepper" because of their intense heat.

The fruit of a tropical, shrubby perennial, cayenne pepper is now grown in India, Africa, Mexico, China, Japan and Louisiana. The chiles are small and pungent. Cayenne pepper is one of the few spices that is always found in the ground form, the result of grinding the dried, ripened pods. The color varies from a deep red to nearly orange.

Cayenne is a common component of curry powder. It will add zest to nearly any dish

A little cayenne pepper goes a long way so use with care in cooking. A good rule is to start with just a dash or two in recipes to serve four. Taste, then increase dash by dash until you have the heat level you desire. Be warned, too, the spice may become even more intense with freezing.

Hot Crackers

1 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon granulated onion

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

2 Tablespoons grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil


non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl; stir well. Toss in cheese. Add buttermilk and oil; stir until dry ingredients are moistened.

Divide dough in half. On a 9"x11" cookie sheet coated with the cooking spray, roll out half of dough into a thin, even layer that fills the sheet. Score dough by making 8 lengthwise cuts and 10 crosswise cuts that don't go all the way through. Prick entire surface with a fork.

Bake for 15 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Break along score lines into individual crackers. Repeat process with other half of dough. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: about 15 dozen crackers

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Other articles you might enjoy:

1. All About Crushed Red Peppers

2. Chile Relleno Magic

3. All About Peppercorns

4. Chile Pepper Q&A Page

5. All About Paprika


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