Cooking with Dark Chocolate: Surprising Versatility

Cooking with dark chocolate may seem like your options are severely limited; dark chocolate isn’t very sweet, and children generally aren’t big fans of the stuff, but many will be surprised at the different ways dark chocolate can be used in cooking. Its rich, dark flavor adds to any dish it graces.

Just Desserts

The most obvious recipes for dark chocolate are desserts. Besides cakes, you can make fudge, bars, cookies and mousse. A recipe I use at home is for a dark chocolate dressing for fruit salad. I find that the sweetness of the fruit compliments the bitterness of the chocolate, and neither overpowers. It’s simple to make: melt over a double boiler some dark chocolate, adding a little bit of water, so that it doesn’t end up being so thick, a little bit of liquor (to taste) and then drizzle over your favorite bowl of readied fruit. It looks fabulous because the sharp contrast between the dark stripes and the light fruit. As the chocolate cools it will start to harden a bit, so it’s best to serve immediately.

Similar to the dark chocolate dressing is a fruit tart with dark chocolate custard. Prepare custard as usual, scald milk and stir in egg yolks to gain richness and texture (or follow the directions on the package), and then drop in crushed chocolate. Stir and allow to thicken and pour into prepared piecrusts (size is up to you). Then slice fruits such as kiwi, citrus and berries and set into the thickened custard. I like to also pour over a simple glaze (sugar and water) and put in the fridge until the custard sets.

Also good is a dark chocolate cheese parfait. Again, the bitter quality of the chocolate is a perfect foil for the smooth creaminess of the cheese. You use any kind of fresh white soft cheese, such as ricotta, cream cheese or mascarpone; if using ricotta, use very fresh ricotta or your parfait will taste “cheesy.” Crush the dark chocolate very finely. In a blender, blend the cheese with cream: usually one part cream to two parts cheese. This will give you a fluffy texture – like whipped cream. Stir in a bit of sugar and then the chocolate and mix further. Add a few berries if you’d like and serve chilled.

While best in desserts, dark chocolate can also be used in main courses, such as chili and mole. The versatility of this delicious ingredient makes it a great asset to any dish.

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