Tips for Pairing Fruit with Chocolate

This post is brought to you by Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate. 20100807chocstrawberries.jpg

Chocolate covered strawberries, a classic. [Flickr: somegeekintn]

I was surprised to learn, while I was working at Roni-Sue's a couple years ago, that there were people who didn't like fruit-flavored truffles. Not really so much surprised at the fact itself, but more the amount of people who weren't fans of, say, the combination of raspberry and dark chocolate (one of my all-time favorites) or the pomegranate truffles.

I humbly submit that it's a matter of bad history involving fruit-related chocolates (mass-produced orange cream bonbon, anyone?). Since the farmers' markets and grocery stores are exploding with delicious summer fruit right now, here are some ways you can enjoy chocolate and fruit in a classy, delicious way—and leave all the bad memories of fake, overly-sweet fondant firmly in the past.

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Hot fudge sauce on berry sorbet. [Photograph: Liz Gutman]

Dark Chocolate

I think dark chocolate pairs well with almost every fruit. From the sweet (banana, mango) to the tart (raspberry), everything seems to go well with dark chocolate. Good thing, since it's more popular than ever.

As a kid, one of my favorite summertime treats was a smoothie made with frozen banana chunks, a little milk and yogurt, and a spoonful or two of chocolate milk mix. I grown-up-ify it by using unsweetened cocoa powder instead of the sweetened mix, which keeps it from being cloying. There's always the easy route of dipping fresh berries in chocolate—hard to go wrong with that. Or you could make some hot fudge sauce and drizzle it over your favorite sorbet. I find mango particularly delightful. I also hear they make ice cream bars in many fruit flavors these days...

If you're a little more hands-on, you can make your own cherry cordials. You can get as ready-made (neon maraschino cherries, chocolate chips) or as artisanal (cherries soaked in actual maraschino liqueur, high-percentage organic chocolate). Fondant can be found online and in specialty cake/baking supply stores, and can be thinned with a little more booze before dipping the cherries. Just saying.

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A chocolatey cake with mango-mint coulis. [ Flickr: tristanf]

A really easy way to use fruit that might be a little past its prime, or that you're worried you won't finish before it is, is to make a coulis out of it. Coulis is really simple to make—typically it's made with berries that are simmered with a little sugar and lemon juice until it thickens up. You can make it with any fruit, really. I'd chop up stone fruits or other firmer, non-berry stuff into small pieces before cooking, and puree the end product in a blender. Classically, it's strained, but you can strain it or not - up to you - and coulis is a no-brainer to drizzle over chocolate ice cream, a chocolate tart, or a nice cup of chocolate mousse.

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A cut-open cherry cordial. Yum? [Flickr: jeffbelmonte]

Milk Chocolate

As far as fruit and milk chocolate go, I head straight for the nearest gourmet store. Since milk chocolate has a softer bite than dark, it doesn't (for me) work as well as a coating for soft fresh berries; the snap just isn't the same. I prefer infused or filled milk chocolate; the higher-quality the product is, the fresher-tasting the fruit flavor will be. Some varieties are flavored with fruit oils; the flavor of the chocolate and the fruit are mingled with every bite.

Then there are the kind with fruity, gooey fillings. I'm ambivalent about these since I've had both good and bad experiences with them, and it's hard to know if you'll like it before you actually bite in—but no harm in being adventurous! And if you already have a type you like, go for it. My favorite kind of chocolate/fruit bar has actual fruit mixed in; usually dried (as opposed to freeze-dried). I like the chewiness and tartness of the dried fruit; it cuts the sweetness of the milk chocolate beautifully.

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Layered chocolate and banana pudding. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

I also happen to love chocolate pudding. Not only can you mix fresh fruit into it; you can layer it with fruit pudding! Of course, I imagine this would be insanely delicious with homemade fruit pudding—not that I've done that, so I'm not here to judge if you make it from a mix.

You can get your fix in liquid form, too. Don't think you need to save that coulis for a fancy plated dessert; it mixes really well with chocolate milk, and is a nice substitute for sugary premade syrups. When it's chilly out, you can hydrate a little fruit powder in warm milk and add it to your hot cocoa. Seriously delicious.

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White chocolate peach bonbons. [Photograph: Liz Gutman]

White Chocolate

I know, I know, it's not actually chocolate—but white chocolate is a great base for more delicate fruit flavors like peach and strawberry. It can also be ideal for puckery flavors, like lime and passion fruit; the lack of strong flavor really lets the fruit's tartness shine through. In all these cases, I'd go to a chocolatier that you know and trust; they know what to do with white chocolate, and ganache is the ideal medium for all these tastes. Pick out an assortment to take home, and enjoy.

All these are just suggestions, of course. Follow your own taste buds, and enjoy the summer's bounty while it lasts in the best way possible - by drowning it in chocolate.