5 Ways to Combine Chocolate and Coffee

This post is brought to you by Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate.

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Awww, they loves each other. [Flickr: foxtongue]

Chocolate and coffee: a classic combo. But when a choc-o-bomb doughnut and a watery cuppa joe aren't doing it for you any more, you know you have other options, right?

No I'm not talking about mochas. As delightful as they can be sometimes, I find those made in the local, um, Chain Coffee Place tend to be syrupy-sweet and completely lacking in the interplay of smokey, bitter and rich that marries chocolate and coffee so well. I'm also not going to talk about flavored coffee. Or flavored coffee "creamer."*

* Because I write the column, that's why.

1. Pour Chocolate Syrup in Coffee

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Everything's better with chocolate chips. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

First of all, if I'm going to mix chocolate and coffee as a drink, I'm going to do it right. Of course you can always pour some chocolate syrup into your morning java, but there's also the option to add a little dutched cocoa powder and sugar (or honey, or maple or agave syrup or whatever) to your taste instead. Fancy!

2. Cocoa Nib Tea

And something I've always wanted to do—but haven't been able to, given my limited kitchen situation—is to grind up some nibs and brew them up in the filter with my coffee. My former coworker Michelle (now of Sarivole Organic Bakery, who makes a killer Mocha Almond cookie herself) used to tell me about how she would brew up cocoa nib tea all the time. That was definitely a forehead-slap moment—why didn't I think of that? So someone with better kitchen tools than me needs to make them some cocoa-nib-infused espresso and report back to me. Or, y'know, buy me a spice grinder and an espresso machine. But I'd still need something to dip in it...Biscotti, anyone?

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The stuff of a pastry student's nightmares. [Flickr: arndog]

3. Gâteau l'Opéra

More classically, the French gâteau l'opéra, or opera cake, combines coffee-soaked sponge cake, buttercream, ganache and chocolate glaze, all assembled in itty-bitty, evenly sized, millimeters-thick layers. It's exactly as delicious as it sounds, but a devil of a thing to make. Anyone who's ever been through a pastry course that covers this learns very quickly to dread it, and the French seem to have made a modern-day space race out of who can construct a gâteau from the most microscopically thin layers.

Luckily for us more laid-back types, Adam Ried's glorious-looking Chocolate-Almond-Coffee milkshake recipe (via David Lebovitz) encapsulates it quite nicely.

4. Dark Chocolate Everything

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Decorating with chocolate-covered coffee beans: never a bad idea. [Flickr: jessicafm]

Of course, dark chocolate in and of itself can have some very strong coffee undertones. The two products have a lot in common—they're similar parts of the plant, grown in similar climates, roasted on similar machinery. Some easy double-caffeine fixes can be found in truffles, bonbons, and the humble chocolate-covered coffee bean. But I encourage you, as always, to educate your palate by going out, sampling a few (or, hey, many!) kinds of plain dark chocolate, and finding out which taste the most like coffee to you.

Host a tasting party and argue with your friends about it. Or, alternatively, [insert excuse for eating chocolate here].

5. Coffee Toffee

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Ain't nothin wrong with that. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

But for me, of course, I always go back to candy. And since I'm always an advocate of do-it-yourselfery, I love Smitten Kitchen. Deb does so very much in so very little space, and I admire the hell out of her for that. Plus, she was smart enough to put coffee and chocolate together with something that makes them immeasurably better than the sum of their parts: butter.

So grease up a sheet pan and make some of Smitten Kitchen's Coffee Toffee. Hey, it's not too early to start practicing making all your holiday gifts.

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