Chocolate Pairings Party
Today I’m throwing a party. A party for one. The star of this party is chocolate and lots of it.
And on Tuesday evening after a long day at work if you’d like to throw a big shin-dig for one, complete with plenty of couch time and your favorite party-for-one-food, otherwise known as chocolate, be my guest.
There is nothing quite like chocolate. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m craving and can’t quite put my finger on it, but many times it turns out that it’s chocolate that I’m after. It’s rich and velvety, soothing and comforting.
When I know it’s chocolate that I want, or shall I say when I know it’s chocolate I need, nothing else will do. If I try to satisfy my craving for chocolate with something else like cookies, crackers, or chips, I just wind up sampling a smorgasbord of snacks, but still need to get my chocolate fix and eat that, too. I should just start with it.
Sometimes I like my chocolate plain, all by itself, and want to savor and indulge in the dark cocoa-bean induced bliss it provides. I prefer both eating and baking with darker chocolate, either 72% or 86% percent. There is a luxurious simplicity of allowing a piece of high quality dark chocolate melt away in my mouth while I’m transported to my own little happy place for a few moments.
Gazing at cracked chocolate, a study in perfect imperfection, makes me giddy. And the irregular bits and pieces taste especially good when snagged right off the cutting board.
Sometimes I pair chocolate with nuts on the side.
I don’t like nuts in my chocolate, but I like them next to my chocolate. Go figure.
A lightly salted cashew, in all it’s plant-based buttery glory, tones down the bitterness of dark chocolate and the slight saltiness brings out and enhances the chocolate’s sweetness.
I’m a big fan of salty ‘n sweet combinations. One brings out and accentuates the other, which is why a pinch of salt in dessert recipes can go a long way in rounding out and maximizing all the flavors present.
Other varieties of nuts and seeds or trail mix are also nice with chocolate. For a texture freak like me, the contrast of crunchy with smooth reigns supreme. The more little bits of sunflower seeds, peanuts, raspberry-yogurt covered pretzels, almonds, and trail mix bits and pieces that I can get stuck in my teeth along with the chocolate, the happier I am.
Dried fruit is an excellent pairing with chocolate. The chewiness and sweetness of the fruit is in contrast to the sleekness and refined bitterness of dark chocolate. Dried cranberries, raisins, and dried apricots are some of my favorite dried fruits to pair with chocolate. I love dried blueberries, cherries, and strawberries with chocolate too, but they’re special treats because a tiny bag of dried blueberries for 8.99 that I can polish off in 14 minutes isn’t exactly practical. But it sure tastes good.
Medjool dates truly are nature’s candy and although their wrinkly exterior will not help them win any beauty contests, what they lack in beauty, they make up for in sweetness. They’re my favorite dried fruit, hands down.
They’re also the perfect binding ingredient in no-bake and raw desserts thanks to their sticky, tacky, and glue-like nature. They’re even better when blended with nuts, nut butter, or grains, and made into no-bake bars, topped with chocolate two ways, of course.
One of my all-time favorite snacks is a Medjool date, smeared with peanut butter, with a chunk of dark chocolate inserted in the middle. For these peanut butter-stuffed dates I used chunks from a Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cacao Twilight Delight 72% Bar, which lent a powerful yet smooth intensity.
It’s such a simple snack that has so much going on in one bite: chewy, crunchy, sticky, smooth, intense, sweet, bitter, fatty, dense, rich, fast, and easy. I eat these before a run, after yoga, before dinner, as a midnight snack; I pack them in Skylar and Scott’s lunches, they are one of our family’s favorite chocolate pairings. Just make sure to bring plenty of wetwipes if you give them to a five year old in the car.
Let’s face it though, peanut butter and chocolate go hand in hand. The combination was made for each other and any time I can pair the two, I do.
PB & C may indeed trump PB & J as my favorite flavor combination, with the combo of chocolate and caramel receiving an honorable mention.
After all those salty and crunchy nuts and trail mix, chewy dried fruit, and sticky peanut butter, I’m thirsty. Although coffee and chocolate are always a win, I had something else on my mind.
Red wine, or reddish wines pair wonderfully with dark chocolate. I paired a lighter red wine with the Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cabernet Matinee bar and oh, how I loved it.
The minute I opened the shiny golden wrapper, the aroma of sweet blackberries and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes was profound and intoxicating, although there’s nothing actually intoxicating in the bar. However, feel free to make up for that by pairing the bar with your own intoxicating accompaniments.
I wish you had a scratch and sniff screen for this one. Or that I could turn this bar into perfume. I’d spray myself down with it. Chocolate, blackberries, and Cabernet grapes taste lovely, but they are also heavenly to smell and for me, scents are just as important as flavors.
Now about that party.
It’s time to crack open the wine and get the party started.
This post is brought to you by Ghirardelli Intense Dark™ Chocolate
What do you like to pair your chocolate with?