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Your Valentine’s Day Playbook: Chocolate + Cheese

Bean to Bar Chocolate Collection

Bean to Bar Chocolate CollectionDone well, pairings take two separate eating experiences and combine them into a single elevated experience.  A successful pairing is always one that achieves balance.

You know cheese and wine pair well.  You know wine and chocolate go together.  So logic suggests that cheese and chocolate go together.  And it turns out they do.

One is traditionally savory.  The other traditionally sweet.  Alone, they count among our favorite indulgences.  Together they transform into a flavor explosion in your mouth.

If you think about it, it makes sense.  Chocolate + cheese share many of the same flavor qualities – rich, bold, robust, creamy.  The hint of salt cheese perfectly balances the roasty saltiness of chocolate.  Add a glass of champagne, and you’ve create a savory-sweet love connection that will make any foodie’s heart race.

It’s a little tougher to get a good chocolate and cheese pairing right than say a cheese and champagne pairing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth pursuing.  After all, what better way to end a Valentine’s Day meal than with two of the greatest foods man ever created?

If you’ve never paired cheese with chocolate before, here are some tips to assist:

  1. Pair by flavor intensity: A robust dark chocolate needs the concentrated, intense flavors of a dried and aged cheese to avoid being overwhelmed. A milder, younger, buttery cheese can pair with a lighter milkier chocolate.
  2. Pair based on complementary flavors. Dark chocolate is increasingly bitter and fruity as its cacao percentage increases.  Pair it with a sharp aged cheese or even a fruity Taleggio.  It also goes well with earthy, cave aged cheeses that a complement the chocolate’s earthy flavor.  A sweet, creamy milk chocolate brings out the natural sweetness in a cheese like a Gorgonzola Dolce.
  3. Pair based on contrasting flavors and textures. Milk chocolate can be very sweet, which makes it a good foil for tangy cheeses like Robiola.  Chocolate truffles tend to be very rich, so they need a sharper or drier cheese to cut through the fattiness, like a Parmigiano Reggiano.  Toffees and caramel are so sweet that they practically beg for saltiness like you’ll find in a Pecornio Romano.
  4. Add some Texture. Cheese is typically soft or crumbly so look for chocolates that add a contrasting texture.  Think about chocolate-covered toffee, caramels or espresso beans  or chocolate with dried fruit, nuts or candies.
  5. Taste is just a matter of taste: There are no rules or wrong answers when pairing chocolate with cheese.  Everyone’s palate is different and what goes together in theory might not work for you.  The real fun is to just start experimenting.  And what better excuse to eat more chocolate and cheese?

A Few More Hints:

  1. The best chocolates to pair with cheese have a bit of fruitinessCheese Loves Chocolate
  2. Dark chocolate pairs with almost any cheese, but goes particularly well with more complex, aged cheeses.
  3. Sweet milk chocolate likes buttery cheeses like Brie.
  4. Nuttier chocolates go well with cheeses that are high in butterfat.
  5. Spicy chocolates like a sharp cheese.

Conducting Your Tasting

  1. Start with savory and then switch to sweet. The sweetness of chocolate can sometimes overwhelm the palate.  So start with the cheese and then taste the chocolate.  And start with the dark chocolate pairings and then move to milk chocolate.
  2. Portion Your Pairings. Chocolate is a strong taste and it can overwhelm the cheese.  To avoid that, try about twice as much cheese and chocolate in order to fully appreciate the flavor profile of both.
  3. Use the Very Best Quality. Chocolate and cheese are both very rich so a little bit goes a long way. Since you don’t need a ton of either to have fun tasting them, go ahead and get the good stuff!
  4. Clear Your Palate. You’re combining two really strong flavors.  We recommend having some water or a crusty baguette nearby to cleanse your palate between tastings.

Some Suggested Pairings

  • Dark Chocolate
    • Gruyere, Parmesan, Emmental, Gorgonzola and Buffalo Mozzarella
  • Milk Chocolate
    • Buffalo Moz, Gruyere, Cheddar, Buttery cheeses like brie
  • Chocolate with Dried Fruit + Nuts
    • Pairs well with creamier, semi-soft cheese (triple creams) and also aged cheeses that have more complexity.
  • Spicy Chocolates
    • Pair with sharp cheeses that aren’t too salty
  • Mold Ripened Cheese & Chocolate Pairings
    • Triple Crème Brie and milk chocolate (Pierre Robert, the ultimate champagne cheese)
    • Sweet & creamy blue cheese + 62% dark chocolate
  • Semi-Hard Cheese & Chocolate Pairings
    • Wine or Beer washed cheese + dark chocolate:
    • Aged Cheddar + dried fruit enrobed chocolate:
    • Gouda + dark chocolate:
  • Aged Hard Cheese & Chocolate Pairings
    • Aged Jack cheese + dark chocolate and nuts:
    • Aged Gouda + spicy chili infused chocolate or dark chocolate with almonds:
    • Hard, grating cheese + chocolate with fruit:
    • Aged Cheddar: Dark chocolate with dried fruit
  • Blue Cheese & Chocolate Pairings
    • Creamier sweet blue cheeses + 70% – 80% cacao:
    • Aged more complex blue cheeses with 80% or higher cacao

BONUS RECIPE:

Dark Chocolate and Parmesan Grilled Cheese Sandwich

For this recipe, you’ll need: 2 slices country bread 2 ounces dark chocolate (64%), coarsely chopped 6 thinly shaved slices Parmesan cheese cooking oil spray Directions: Layer one slice of bread with the chocolate and then with Parmesan cheese and top with second slice of bread. Microwave for 30 seconds. Heat a panini press, grill pan or skillet. Spray the surface and the outside of the bread with cooking oil spray. Grill until bread is golden brown and chocolate and cheese are oozing. Serve immediately.

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