A Plate of Chocolate Dipped Things

Chocolate Dipped Things // Notwithoutsalt.com Chocolate Dipped Things // Notwithoutsalt.com

It’s sort of a silly name, isn’t it? But intriguing none the less. Also, delicious.

“It’s a platter of things dipped in chocolate.” I announced as I set the plate down in front of my guests after a full meal. It seemed the appropriate way to end a dinner of roasted apple and blue cheese stuffed pork, mashed carrot and potato gratin, and a salad of celery root and apple.

After cooking that sort of a meal a simple dessert is in order. But I have to tell you that this dessert (and I’ve now made it three times since) despite its ease, has resulted in some of the robust sighs of delight I’ve yet heard.

You first start by wandering the produce aisle and the bulk section of your favorite grocery store and you think to yourself, what would be appropriate to dip into a warm bowl of melted bittersweet chocolate? It’s a very fun question to consider.

Dried apricots are a must and then one bin down from those are the dried peaches which are also lovely – tart and fragrant. This time of year there are not a lot of fresh things to dip so I stick with candied ginger, dates, homemade candied citrus rind and something crunchy – salted pretzels are nice as are those thinly sliced crackers that have a whisper of rosemary. If you’re feeling up to the task a chocolate dipped homemade cookie is rather special. I’m partial to Speculaas.

A plate of chocolate things is really most appropriate after you’ve been spending most the day working on the meal and can’t bear to put more thought into dessert. Or if you’ve been asked to bring something to a party but your schedule doesn’t allow for much fanfare. The thing is, this platter, with its wafting scent of chocolate and candy shop-esque array of choices, meets your guests the furthest thing from their minds will be the fact that it took you approximately ten minutes to put together. Chocolate is quite good at hiding those sort of secrets.

Chocolate Dipped Things // Notwithoutsalt.com Chocolate Dipped Things // Notwithoutsalt.com Chocolate Dipped Things // Notwithoutsalt.com

A Plate of Chocolate Dipped Things

It’s difficult to give you a recipe here as so much depends on how much and what you plan to dip. I will do my best but please simply use this as a guide.

 

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (good quality chips are fine)

a variety of things for dipping: dried fruit such as apricots; peaches, dates, prunes, bananas, ginger, and candied citrus. Also, pretzels, crackers, and cookies.

sliced pears and cut up oranges (nice when one needs a bit of a break from all the chocolate)

 

Cover a baking sheet in parchment then set aside.

Melt your chocolate.

The thing to remember when you are melting chocolate is that you must do so gently. There are two easy ways to do this. The first is to set up a bain marie which is merely a French way of saying “a simmering pot of water with another pot or bowl resting on top”. The bowl on top holds the chocolate and should never touch the water below. Stir and melt until just a few pieces of unmelted chocolate remain in the bowl. Remove from the heat and let the residual heat continue to melt what remains.

The second method is for the microwave. You’ll need a microwave safe bowl and a spoon or rubber spatula. Begin by melting the chocolate in 15 to 20 second intervals. Stir well after each heating. You may not see much change in the first few rounds but the slow and steady heating will ensure that the chocolate won’t burn. There’s no going back from burnt chocolate.

Continue to melt in this way until a few pieces of unmelted chocolate remain in the bowl. Let the residual heat melt the unmelted chocolate.

Dip your items into the chocolate then set them on the baking sheet.

When everything has been dipped set the tray in the refrigerator to set up the chocolate. This should take about 10 minutes.

After that you are ready to set all your chocolate dipped things on the platter. Tuck in a few pear slices and halved clementines on the plate just before serving.

 

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Delicata Squash with Brown Butter & Cocoa Nibs


Squash with Brown Butter and Nibs // Notwithoutsalt.com

There was a bit of hesitation before I decided to post this recipe. Perhaps because it was so far from what I originally intended to post. I thought in its place I’d talk about walnuts. Having just returned from a trip learning about the process of harvesting they happen to be fresh on my mind. In my plans there was pumpkin yogurt alongside butter-toasted walnuts and then a drizzle of olive oil over the whole lot. There’s still time for that too.

The hesitation could also come from the simplicity of this recipe; it’s really no more than sliced squash roasted with a whisper of sugar then sprinkled with butter browned until nutty and dark. But then there are cocoa nibs – which I realize may not be in everyone’s pantry. So then I worry that this quickly becomes a “fussy” recipe; one that requires a trip to the store and possibly a few mumbled curse words when you get excited to start cooking and then realize you don’t have all its parts. I’d hate for a recipe to be a bother.

But I’m here with squash and cocoa nibs because when I took a bite it gave me a pause and a few flutters of delight which then ignites the instinct to share it with someone else.

If I’m completely honest, hesitation and I have become perhaps too good of friends lately. There is often a pause, just long enough for the action to stop and the voices of doubt to creep in but in this case those voices just seemed crazy, even to me. Because really, who wouldn’t mind another recipe for squash particularly when chocolate (or its roasted bean) is involved?

Squash with Brown Butter and Nibs // Notwithoutsalt.com Squash with Brown Butter and Nibs // Notwithoutsalt.com

To remove any sort of the fussiness let’s go ahead and say that although nibs do really play a staring role here perhaps toasted, ummmm WALNUTS might do nicely in their place?! Or pecans. You know what, maybe even peanuts with cilantro scattered on top?! I think you get the idea.

I’m partial to Delicata squash because I love that it doesn’t require peeling. In fact once out of the oven that skin is crisp enough to be pleasant against the softness of the flesh and tender enough to be delicious. But really any squash will do.

It is just the sort of recipe that is simple enough to sit alongside Wednesday’s roast chicken but worthy of snuggling up right next to your holiday bird. Leftovers turn a humble bed of peppery greens into a not-so-humble salad.

Squash with Brown Butter and Nibs // Notwithoutsalt.com

Delicata Squash with Brown Butter & Cocoa Nibs

Serves 4 to 6 side servings

The recipe comes from the newly released book, Theo Chocolate which includes all sorts of intriguing sweet and savory recipes that highlight chocolate. The Nibby Crackers are also a favorite. So the lesson of the day is: cocoa nibs are indeed a pantry staple.

 

1 winter squash (about 2 pounds), halved and seeded*

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt*

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 generous tablespoon (about 1/4 ounces) roasted cocoa nibs

flake salt

 

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the Delicata into 1/2-inch half moons.

Add the squash to a sheet tray and drizzle on the olive oil, kosher salt, and brown sugar. Toss well to coat.

Roast until the squash is tender and the edges are nicely browned, about 30 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook until the foam subsides, you start to see brown specks at the bottom of the pan, and the butter smells nutty. Add the cocoa nibs and cook for 10 seconds just to warm them through, then spoon the mixture over the squash and serve immediately.

*I used two small Delicata squash and actually a bit less kosher salt then listed but added a crunchy flake salt at the end.

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