It’s no secret that chocolate pairs well with a slew tasty treats, but if you want to learn how to pair like a pro, you need to know the basics of what types of chocolate go best with what types of noms, and why!
We all know that chocolate covered strawberries are the JAM, but did you know that chocolate dipped pears and mangos can be just as sensational? The secret is knowing how to pair which fruits with which chocolates—and in this case opposites attract!
The darker the chocolate, the more bitter. The more bitter, the more it’s needs to be complimented by something very sweet. That’s why dark chocolate goes great with ripe strawberries, pears, mangos, bananas…the sweeter the better! White chocolate on the other hand is already very rich and sweet. Pairing white chocolate with fruits that have a higher acidity or more mild flavor, such as tart berries and citrus, or mild melons and passion fruit, compliment this type of chocolate VERY well! If ever in doubt, milk chocolate is the best middle ground.
I love nuts, I love chocolate, and frankly I love them both together! Though, it can be said that chocolate enhances the flavor of some nuts better than others. Peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans have very distinct flavor components that go great with dark chocolate! They may be a little overpowering for some milk and most definitely white chocolates. Walnuts tend to be a bit more mild than it’s counterpart the pecan and goes great with milk chocolate! Macadamias are ideal when working with white chocolate because they are very mild and compliment the richness of white chocolate. It’s all about that balance!
Rich, buttery, nutty, creamy–terms you can use interchangeably when talking about cheese and chocolate! It doesn’t initially seem like an obvious match, but certain cheeses and chocolates have flavor components that complement each other VERY well!
In general, lighter and creamier cheeses pair better with lighter, and consequently, creamier chocolates. Pairing milk chocolate with a side of Gruyère (known for its nutty flavor) will emphasize the sweetness of the chocolate and the nuttiness of the cheese without overpowering either of the flavor components. A cheese that is more acidic and pungent, like a blue cheese or a goat cheese, would go better with a darker chocolate that can stand its own amongst those intense flavors.
When it comes to sweeter chocolate add-ins, like honey and caramel, I prefer a darker chocolate base. Yes it’s true, milk chocolate and caramel taste great together, but it’s also true that they make one rich combo! A piece or two and you’re sugared out…where as a dark chocolate filled with caramel creates a perfect balance of sweet and bitter, without being overwhelming.
In the case of peanut butter and chocolate, the flavor and texture of roasted nuts are very similar to those of cocoa beans and mix well together—as evident by the plethora of popular chocolate and peanut butter concoctions!
When the oils of peanut butter combine with the cocoa butter of chocolate, the melting point of the chocolate decreases. This allows for it to melt in your mouth more rapidly and release a burst of chocolatey-peanut-butter flavors as soon as it hits your tongue! I would recommend that if you make a peanut butter and chocolate dish at home, always use an unsweetened peanut butter if you’re working with milk chocolate and a sweetened peanut butter with dark chocolate. Balancing the sweetness is key!
Not the most obvious choices for pairing with chocolate…but bacon, potato chips, pretzels, and generally most salted treats go great with chocolate, and I believe I know WHY!
Sugar represents energy. Our bodies need energy, hence when we consume sugar positive receptors go off, giving ourselves a hypothetical “pat on the back.” The same goes with salt. Unlike other nutrients we have no way of storing salt for future use, but we need it to survive. Therefor we constantly crave salt. With this in mind, providing our bodies with salty treats (bacon, chips, pretzels) and then coating those treats in sugar (chocolate), creates a DOUBLE WHAMMY of positive reception! Hence, why we love it!
A more obvious pairing of chocolate would be with coffee! Both nutty and bold flavors go phenomenally well together; especially when paired correctly! Darker chocolates goes with darker and bolder roasts, like a Sumatra or Italian roast. Anything that won’t be overpowered by either of the bold components. Milk chocolate goes best with a medium roast, like Colombian, Kenyan, or Kona coffee. A breakfast blend is sensational with a few pieces of creamy milk chocolate! Lighter roasts, like Costa Rican and Yemeni coffees, pair well with the lightest of “chocolates”—white chocolate!
Now everybody loves the idea of pairing chocolate and wine! It’s so romantic, right? But truth be told, the actual task can be a bit more daunting than expected—and with good reason. Chocolate and wine both have very intense flavors! A bite of good chocolate can easily overpower the taste of a light red or white wine—as does a sip of good dry wine to less bold chocolates…
The key to successfully pairing wine with chocolate is to match sweetness with sweetness! A little counter intuitive compared to pairing chocolate with just about any else, but it’s the only way to do it! Pairing milk chocolate (or sweeter dark chocolates) with dessert wines, like a Vintage Port, Madeira, or a sweet sherry, is the easiest way to make a successful pairing. These types of wine bring a natural sweetness to help keep up with the sweetness of the chocolate. And when paired right…chocolate and wine can be extraordinary!
All that said…what’s your favorite, and MOST unusual, chocolate pairing?
Can’t wait to see what you come up with!