Butter, margarine, confectioners sugar, heavy cream, evaporated milk, condensed milk, brandy, vanilla extract. What do all these things have to do with chocolate? Why not add Eye of Newt to the mixture?
Fondue recipes proliferate. Many are unduly fancy. Some are simply mired in preconceived notions about food inherited from the roly-poly days when butter and flavorings were the esteemed foundations upon which we constructed our culinary fantasies. Sometimes it’s nice to dispense with the curlycues, or more savagely, just take those crusty habits out to pasture and put them out of their misery.
The other day at our Himalayan Salt Block Cooking Class we made an original sort of chocolate fondue. More viscous, richer, more complex, and, (of all things) crunchier than your typical fondue, we ate fondue was at once more sophisticated and yummier. The only ingredient in the fondue is chocolate.
No good pictures of our Himalayan Salt Block Very Dark & Nibby Chocolate Fondue have survived for posterity, but a shot taken that evening (right) gives an idea of the basic setup. The Himalayan salt block works like a double boiler, protecting the chocolate from excessive heat while contributing the temperature stability necessary to work the melting chocolate without allowing it to separate into oil and solids. The salt block also makes a beautiful serving platter. Because there is virtually no moisture in chocolate, the Himalayan salt block does not add any perceptible amount of saltiness to the chocolate. To prepare this dish, you will need the following:
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
- 16 ounces of the dark chocolate of your choice (the darker the chocolate, the better it will compete against the flavors of the foods you dip into it).
- 1 tablespoon cacao nibs (optional).
- 1 large Himalayan salt plate (8 inch by 8 inch by 1.5 inches is recommended. The larger size plates give you room to work the chocolate without making a mess).
- Banana, strawberry, croissant, corn on the cob, or other fun dipping foods.
Place the Himalayan salt block on the gas range at very low heat. If using an electric range, be sure to use a metal ring as a spacer to keep the salt 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the surface of the electric coil. Slice the dipping foods into finger sized bits and set aside. After fifteen minutes at low heat, the salt block should be quite warm to the touch, but not hot. When at the desired temperature, place a square of the chocolate. It should begin to melt slowly. If it sizzles or smokes, reduce heat and wait another fifteen minutes for the brick to cool. If the chocolate does not begin to melt slowly after a minute or two, increase heat slightly and wait fifteen minutes for the salt block to warm.
When you have a nicely melting square of chocolate, add half of the remaining chocolate. When chocolate is mostly melted, fold it over on itself with a metal spatula. Add the remaining chocolate. Continue to work gently with the spatula. When all the chocolate is melted, slowly fold in the cacao nibs. When all is a gooey consistency, remove the Himalayan salt block from heat and set on a trivet at the table with the dipping foods arranged along side. Provide each diner a cheese knife or butter knife with which to dig into, and spread, the fondue, and set to!
Why fondue now?
Fondue is one of those transcendent foods; it is a dessert, it is an experience, it is a social activity, it is a symbol of fun, and there is something so obviously erotic about dipping slices of turgid pineapple into molten chocolate with our fingers that nobody even bothers to offer suggestive metaphors about it. Mi-cuit foie gras may be the tastiest thing on the face of the earth, but the fact that you have to eat it on a thin slice of fresh melba toast to get the most out of eating it says a lot for its failure to find much of a following outside the more worldly circles.
Today we have extremely cool new chocolates out there, opening the door to making fondues that are every bit as nuanced and profound as crafted by fanatics who are working hand in hand with local growers ( or growing cacao trees themselves) on increasingly specialized plantations where quality is prized over quantity. Like so many forgotten daffodils, chocolates are now cropping up across a wide open landscape of flavor. In a good chocolate shop you can dive into any experience you care for, with profiles that sync up with, and groove to, even the most obscure domains of your food preferences. Looking at a wall of dark chocolate bars, you can dive into virtually any experience you care for.In the move Total Recall, the character of Arnold Schwarzenegger leaves through a catalog of dream-realities—Explorer, Playboy, Thoracic Surgeon, Jedi—hoping to escape, if only for a moment, his work a day life. (Inexplicably Schwarzenegger chooses Secret Agent.) Open your mind and your mouth to there right dark chocolate bar, made from the right cacao by the right person in just the right way, and you are likely to find some pretty interesting thing happening to your taste buds: Leather, dates and figs, dried bananas and fresh persimmon, cinnamon and allspice, cherry and vanilla, tobacco and diesel, marshmallows, lime zest and strawberry, coffee and tree nuts, not to mention a host of harder to describe flavors that voice themselves from great dark chocolate like voices whispered in a the shadows of a cathedral.
Butter, margarine, confectioners sugar, heavy cream, evaporated milk, condensed milk, brandy, vanilla extract. What does all this have to do with chocolate? Why not add Eye of Newt to the mixture?
Fondue today is mired in preconceived notions about food we have inherited from decades ago, when flavorings were the esteemed foundations upon which we constructed our culinary fantasies. Today we have extremely cool new chocolates out there, crafted by fanatics who are working hand in hand with local growers (or growing cacao trees themselves) on increasingly specialized, quality-oriented plantations. Chocolates are now emerging across an wide open landscape of flavor profiles, and in a good chocolate shop you can dive into any experience you care for. In the movie Total Recall, the character of Arnold Schwarzenegger leafs through a catalog of dream-realities (explorer, playboy, thoracic surgeon) hoping to escape, if only for a moment, from his work-a-day life. (Inexplicably, he chose secret agent). Open your mind and your mouth to the right a dark chocolate bar made from the right cacao by the right person in just the right way and you may find some pretty interesting things happening to your taste buds: leather, dates and figs, dried bananas and persimmon, cinnamon and allspice, cherry and vanilla, to tobacco caliber, the flavor, the
Chocolate fondue is one of those transcendent foods; it is a dessert, it is an experience, it is a social activity. It is also a byword for decadence alongside mi-cuit foie gras, pheasant under glass or bellinis and caviar. So why do we muck with the possibly the single thing that makes every living person on the planet feel like a bouncing bambino
Most chocolate fondues have you go through a lot of concocting to get to the point where you feel you have earned your Brownie Points. Properly subjugated, quivering with humiliation, is properly enslaved to your ego. Happy now?
Maybe that’s a little extreme, but I’m pretty sure that the proper amount of academic research in the field would conclude that fondue recipes are by and large the result of a genuine terror of chocolate. Or at the very least, it would conclude that elaborate fondue recipes are a hold-over from the days when chocolate was not quite safe to eat on its own.
Those days are gone. There are 100% pure (zero added sugar) chocolate bars out there now that can be eaten with a straight, smiling face–though some of us might admit to finding the large-scale consumption of such chocolate a bit of a challenge. There are dozens of super elegant chocolates that need no more than 30% or even just 20% sugar to make them palatable to most people.
At an event at The Meadow the other day we whipped up a novel form of Fondue. Created for the serious chocolate lover, it also proved delicious to every stripe of eater, from the brooding dark chocolate lover to the bubbly sweet-tooth.
The only possible drawback to this recipe is that not one single ingredient used in it is commonly available at most stores. Shameless, I know, but it truly was born out of what we had at hand in our shop… That said, all these ingredients are out there, and findable with a little research.