I love Valentine’s Day. In addition to it being the day my normally unsentimental husband proposed to me, I see Valentine’s Day as a “free” day for eating chocolate. From morning to late in the evening, all chocolate is fair game.
To celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, I thought it would be fun to make three different kinds of chocolate fondue. Although I’ve trained my kids to love semi-sweet chocolate, we plan on eating the fondue after dinner tonight, which is about an hour and a half before bedtime for my kids. I’m concerned the semi-sweet chocolate will have enough caffeine to wire them just enough to keep them up, so am opting to make a nice white chocolate fondue as well as a creamy milk chocolate one. I also think it will be delicious to have a varied palette of chocolate to choose from.
I must admit that until yesterday, I had never made chocolate fondue. After making a batch last night, however, I am a convert. In addition to it being a remarkably luscious dessert, it is also probably easier than almost any other dessert I’ve ever made.
Before I get into how to make the actual fondue, however, we need to talk about chocolate. When I decided to make fondue, I had a lot of questions. What sort of chocolate should I choose? How much should I use? Should I make it with heavy whipping cream or sweetened and condensed milk? The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to buy the chocolate at Bittersweet, the lovely little chocolate café in the Rockridge district of Oakland, not far from my house. So, with a list of questions in tow, I headed over to Bittersweet.
Bittersweet is a fantastic little café and chocolate shop. In addition to carrying a wide array of fair trade chocolates, they also have a bar where you can order a variety of chocolate drinks: from a classic creamy cocoa or a hot and spicy chocolate, to a white chocolate drink infused with cardamom and spices (which I had and loved).
Becky Vandragt was nice enough to show me around. She listened to my chocolate needs (making fondue for adults and kids) and helped me pick out the best chocolates for my requirements. She started by showing me the white chocolates, of which there were only two. She thought the El Rey Icoa from Venezuela was the best choice. It turns out that most chocolatiers deodorize their cocoa butter so they can sell it to other manufacturers (who make things like lip balm and lotion). The deodorizing process takes out all of those wonderful and natural cocoa smells. El Rey, however, doesn’t sell their cocoa butter. They use it all in-house. This means that their white chocolate retains the natural perfume of the cocoa beans, which gives the white chocolate a more nuanced flavor.
Becky then showed me the milk chocolates. She felt that the E. Guittard and the Michel Cluizel Mangaro Lait were both great choices. I ended up buying the Michel Cluizel simply because it came in a 7 oz. package, while the E. Guittard was 3 oz. package. We then moved over to the other end of the wall of chocolate to find a nice semi-sweet. I told Becky that I planned on flavoring this one fondue with either amaretto or Grand Marnier. I was surprised when she said that I should figure out which one I wanted to use before I settled on a chocolate. I didn’t think it would matter much, but Becky explained that many chocolates have undercurrents of citrus or vanilla and that I should take that into consideration when buying my chocolate. I settled on using Grand Marnier. She then chose a Grenada Organic Dark Chocolate 71%.
After settling on my chocolates, Marienne Warehine, the store manager, gave me a quick rundown on how to make fondue. She felt that heavy cream was the best liquid, as sweetened and condensed milk could make the fondue too sweet and could detract from the complexity of the chocolate. She also felt that you should use a one-to-one ratio when using dark or milk chocolate, but that you should use a two-to-one ratio when using white chocolate. According to Marienne, white chocolate needs more cream to become smooth. Her other bit of very helpful advice was to add any liqueur (to white, milk, or dark chocolate) after everything has melted and fused together because adding it too soon could make the chocolate seize up. I wasn’t quite sure what seized chocolate would look or taste like, but it seemed like something I should definitely avoid.
Last night, I put some of this great advice to the test and made the semi-sweet fondue. We didn’t have any sterno gel for our fondue pot, so I ended up putting the fondue in a glass bowl set in another glass bowl that contained warm water. The fondue stayed silky for about 10 minutes and adhered nicely to the fruit and pound cake I had made earlier that day. I used a one-to-one ratio of heavy cream and the Grenada Organic Dark Chocolate. I then added the Grand Marnier.
White we were admiring how nicely the chocolate tasted with fruit and pound cake, I noted that this was really one of the easiest desserts I had ever made. It literally took me less than five minutes to throw everything together, which included cutting up the bananas and peeling the tangerines. I can’t wait to do it all again tonight.
Recipe for Semi-Sweet Chocolate Fondue with Grand Marnier
7 ounces heavy whipping cream
7 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or other liqueur
1. Chop chocolate into small pieces.
2. Heat whipping cream on medium heat until it starts to simmer.
3. Turn off heat and add chocolate.
4. Stir until chocolate is melted.
5. Add to fondue pot or heated bowl and stir in liqueur.
6. Serve with slices of fruit, pound cake, angel food cake, or macaroons.
Note from 2/15/2008 -- I made some white chocolate fondue last night, using a 2-to-1 cream-to-chocolate ratio. The result was a bit drippy and runny. Next time I will use a one-to-one ration (as I did with the semi-sweet and milk chocolate fondues) and then add more heated cream by the teaspoon as necessary to create the right consistency.