A Grown-Up Romantic Dessert
Sweet, bite-sized tidbits dipped in a pool of smooth, silky dark chocolate enriched with honey and Cognac brandy are the ultimate adult dessert.
Make this recipe for your sweetheart's birthday, anniversary, Valentine's Day, or other special occasion. It's a much more romantic gift than the usual store-bought box of candy.
You can also omit the brandy and substitute milk chocolate Toblerone for a dessert kids will love.
My Sophisticated Version of a Classic French Dessert Fondue
I have always loved the way cognac enhances the flavor of chocolate. When I was in college and wanted to impress a guy for a special date, I would cook dinner—usually steak with wild rice pilaf and tomatoes Provençales—and end the meal with Toblerone fondue. The recipe was on the candy package. In later years, when my palate became more sophisticated and my cooking repertoire expanded, I started playing with that dessert recipe, adding cognac, honey, and a touch of almond extract. When the dark chocolate version of the bar was introduced, I substituted that. My version of this classic recipe has received rave reviews for many years. Now you and your family and guests can enjoy it, too!
This recipe serves two for a romantic evening, or you can easily double, triple, or even quadruple it to serve more guests, depending on the capacity of your fondue pot. In fact, you may want to make a larger quantity anyway, since a deeper "pool" will make it easier to coat the speared dipping morsels. And any leftover dip reheats beautifully and also makes a decadent dessert sauce to drizzle or pour over cake, ice cream, or fresh fruit. It also is extremely rich, so I recommend pairing it with a selection of light, bite-sized tidbits for dipping.
Suggested Variations to Make This Dessert Your Own
I recommend using dark chocolate Toblerone, which has luscious bits of nougat that add wonderful flavor, or chunks of high-quality dark chocolate such as Scharfen Berger or Valrhona. Choose a good quality cognac or brandy. Alternatively, you can replace the cognac with the fruit brandy of your choice, such as raspberry, pear, or cherry brandy, or with Chambord black raspberry liqueur. Tip: If you're unlikely to finish a full-size bottle, see whether your liquor store carries it in a mini size.
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- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1 (3.52-ounce/100-gram) bar of Toblerone Dark Chocolate, chopped, or 3.5 ounces of high-quality dark chocolate, such as Valrhona or Scharffen-Berger, chopped
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoon cognac or other brandy (see suggested alternatives above)
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
- Bite-sized morsels for dipping
- Place the heavy cream and honey in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or an electric fondue pot. Bring them to a simmer, stirring frequently.
- Add the chopped chocolate and whisk until it is completely melted and incorporated into the cream and honey mixture.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat or turn the electric fondue pot to low heat and whisk in the brandy and the almond extract.
- If not using an electric fondue pot, pour the fondue into a small, heat-proof bowl and place it on an electric mug warmer over low heat.
- Serve immediately with fondue forks, dessert forks, plates, and a nice assortment of bite-sized dipping tidbits.
All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.
— Charles M. Schulz
Prevent Scorching With an Electric Fondue Pot
For maximum versatility, I recommend choosing a pot that has an adjustable thermostat with a wide range of settings and is suitable for making oil, broth, or cheese or chocolate fondue. One that I recommend highly is the Cuisinart CFO-3SS Electric Fondue Maker, which a friend of mine owns and I have borrowed several times to make this chocolate fondue recipe.
In addition to the adjustable temperature control probe, this sleek, contemporary fondue set has a 3-quart, brushed stainless steel bowl with a nonstick interior that is easy to detach from the temperature control probe and cord for cleaning. This set also includes a stainless steel fork ring, stand, and eight fondue forks. Since everything except the power cord and thermostat is dishwasher safe, cleanup is a cinch, although handwashing the pot can help prolong the useful life of the nonstick finish.
Any food that pairs well with chocolate and can be cut into bite-sized chunks or cubes is fair game. Depending on how your guests feel about dipping finger foods into the fondue, you also can use rolled lace wafer cookies, pretzel logs, and similar things.
Here are some of my favorite dunking tidbits for this recipe.
Whole seedless grapes and strawberries are ideal. Softer berries, such as raspberries or blueberries, taste divine dipped in the warm chocolate, but they tend to fall off the fork and into the pot.
Bite-size chunks of fresh fruits such as pineapples, apples, pears, or peaches are great. Thick slices of fresh or frozen banana are fabulous; slice them thickly on the bias so they are wide enough to spear easily with both tines of the fondue fork.
If you are okay with finger food, you can also dip individual segments of firm, fresh oranges or clementines. (If you skewer them on the fork, the juice will drip into the chocolate mixture.)
The flavors of luscious figs, tangy apricots, tart mangoes, and other fruits intensify when the fruits are dried, making them a perfect foil for the rich, melted dark chocolate.
Crystallized Ginger or Candied Citrus Peels
Next time you eat citrus fruit, don't throw away the peel—candy it! These chewy treats are easy to make and can also be purchased, and their tangy flavors are enhanced by a quick dip in a pool of dark chocolate.
These may not be as sophisticated as some of the other dipping tidbits here, but when drenched in warm chocolate they just melt in your mouth. Full-sized marshmallows are preferred since both tines of the fondue fork can be pushed through them to secure them during dipping and the subsequent transfer to the plate.
Firm Cake Cubes
Pick a type of cake that won't crumble when you spear it on the fork or dip it into the pot, such as angel food or pound cake.
Frozen Brownie Cubes
Buy or make an uncut pan of brownies. Freeze the brownie slab and then cut it into bite-sized cubes. Keep them in the freezer until serving time. A chocoholic's dream!
Frozen Cheesecake Cubes
Buy or make a crustless cheesecake (or slice off the crumb crust neatly). Freeze it until very firm, then cut it into cubes. (Use a very sharp knife dipped in hot water, wiping off the blade with a paper towel and dipping it in hot water again before each new cut.) Put the cheesecake cubes back into the freezer until serving time so they won't melt or fall apart when they are dipped into the warm chocolate. Sinfully delicious!
Purchased ladyfingers are fine. Homemade is even better!
You can use either purchased or homemade. If you want to spear them with a fork, choose the kind that has a thin, crisp outer shell and is chewy on the inside. If you're baking your own meringues, try piping them into long rods so that you can hold them on one end and dip the other end into the chocolate without your fingers getting inside the pot.
Crisp Lace Cookies
These are definitely finger foods. Buy or make the kind that is rolled around a wooden spoon handle while hot, giving you a convenient handle for dipping.
Tip: When making any lace cookie recipe, make sure to leave lots of room between the mounds of cookie batter, since this type of cookie spreads a lot during baking; it's easy to end up with a single, huge cookie that covers the entire cookie sheet. Also, although many recipes tell you to cover the cookie sheets with greased aluminum foil, I find that using greased baking parchment works better.
Chewy Coconut or Almond Macaroons
Dip them frozen or at room temperature for a luscious treat.
Salty pretzels and sweet, dark chocolate are a match made in heaven! Pretzel rods are sturdy enough so they won't break and long enough to be dipped into the warm chocolate without falling into the pot (or having anyone's fingers inside it to retrieve a dropped tidbit).
There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with chocolate.
- Linda Grayson
Eating fondue involves more than just dunking and eating. Here are the rules of the road, which I picked up mostly from my parents (who traveled through Switzerland extensively and loved throwing fondue parties), although I also consulted a few online sources.
Spear Each Dipping Tidbit Securely
Spear a chunk of fruit, a cube of cake, etc. with the tip of your fondue fork and push the tidbit far enough onto the tines so that the little fins on the ends pierce all the way through the food. This will help prevent your tasty morsel from falling off the fork and into the pot (or onto the table).
Keep Track of Your Fondue Fork
Most are color coded at the tips of the handles. Before you dip, check your fork to see which color is on the handle tip. That way, if you and someone else accidentally drop your forks in the pot, it will be easy to identify which fork belongs to whom.
Dip But Don't Drip
Spare your (or your host's or hostess's) tablecloth! These tips will help you avoid the dreaded drip:
- Dip your speared tidbit into the warm chocolate to coat it, then lift it just above the surface of the but not all the way out of the pot.
- Rest the elongated neck of the fondue fork on the edge of the pot for a few seconds to let the excess drip back into the pot.
- Rotate the fork slowly as you lift your dipped tidbit out of the pot and onto your plate.
- If you're still having trouble with drips, you may bring your plate next to the pot, lift the dipped morsel so the plate is under it and keep them in that relative position as you bring them back to your place setting.
Transfer the Dipped Tidbits Before Eating Them
In general, the rule is that the fork that goes into the dip should never go near your mouth. So transfer your dipped tidbit from your fondue fork onto your plate, then spear the coated morsel with a dinner or salad/dessert fork before lifting it to your lips.
Note: For most people, this is simply a matter of good manners (and hygiene). However, there are people who think it's fine for each participant to use the same fork for both dipping and eating. If you are one of them, I strongly recommend checking with your guests in advance to find out how they feel about it.
Dipping a morsel into the pot again after you have bitten into it is considered a serious faux pas, not to mention unhygienic. So when you dip your tidbit, make sure to coat the entire piece with as much of the melted chocolate as you will want.
Forks Versus Fingers
Many people consider dipping food with their fingers to be unsanitary and ill-mannered. It also can result in burned fingers. The exception is dipping items that cannot be speared with a fondue fork, such as rolled, crisp wafer cookies or long pretzel rods. In that situation, only the tip of the food should be dipped so your fingertips don't come near the communal dip. You may want to check with your guests to see how they feel about this issue before serving them dippers that can't be speared with a fork. If no one in the party objects, go for it!
Dark Chocolate Fondue with Honey and Cognac Recipe
© 2012 Margaret Schindel