In the world of chocolate, there are many ingredients that you may pair with it not only in truffles, ganaches and chocolate bars, but also in cooking, baking and dipping. There are five primary classifications for food pairing with chocolate. They are vanilla, nuts, fruits, spices, and spirits and wine. The chocolate with these ingredients compliment each other. The chocolate compliments the ingredients and the ingredients compliment the chocolate.
When pairing vanilla with chocolate, you may use Bourbon or Tahitian vanilla. Vanilla may be added to chocolate couverture or used in the centers of ganaches, in truffles or any baked goods. (There is a synthetic form of vanilla called vanillin which is not recommended. It is made from the sap of a pine tree and has a terrible aftertaste. It is frequently used in commercial, mass produced chocolate bars as it is significantly less expensive that pure vanilla.) If vanilla is used as the primary flavor, only dark chocolate should be used. If using vanilla as additional flavoring, it may be added to milk chocolate too. Vanilla is wonderful in dark chocolate truffles, chocolate cake and added to hot chocolate.
There are a wide variety of nuts including almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pistachios and walnuts to name a few. They are used with chocolate in ganaches, marzipan, pralines, chocolate bars and baked goods. Nuts may be paired with milk or dark chocolate. When using marzipan, it is best paired with very dark chocolate and pralines are best with milk chocolate. The United State’s favorite nut is the peanut with chocolate and Europe’s number one flavor is hazelnut with chocolate.
Almost all fruits can be paired with chocolate. The most popular are mangoes, strawberries, oranges, raspberries, blackberries and cherries. Fruit is fantastic in chocolate baked goods as well as being used as a garnish. Fruits are also amazing as a flavor added to chocolate bars, in centers of bon bons or to enhance truffles. Fruit often accompanies chocolate fondue.
Some of the common spices used with chocolate are ginger, anise, chilies, cinnamon and pepper. These spices may be used in chocolate bars, for bon bon fillings, in truffles, added to baked goods and as a garnish. Crystallized ginger is often dipped in dark chocolate for a wonderful taste explosion. Spices work best with dark chocolate, although more and more chocolatiers are started to find fabulous combinations that work with milk chocolate. In baking, all spices work particularly well. Anise, cinnamon and chilies have been used in a hot chocolate drink since the Aztecs and Mayans invented it.
Spirits and wines are becoming more and more popular when making chocolate, conducting tastings and pairings, and in cooking. Some of the more popular spirits used with chocolate are sherry, brandy, cognac and rum. More recently, red wine, dessert wine, white wine and champagnes are being added to chocolate. Chocolate and beers/ales have become in fashion over the past year. Spirits and wines are great for use in chocolate desserts, in bon bon centers and in truffles. They work equally as well with both milk and dark chocolate.
Although these are the more common pairings of ingredients with both milk and dark chocolate, chocolatiers and pastry chefs are constantly testing our palates to bring us more unusual and unique flavor combinations. It is always nice to think out of the box and try new things. Who knows what you might be missing!