Chocolate and cheese? Yes, please
Still got some chocolate left over from the Easter Bunny’s visit yesterday? If not, we salute you. If you do, we recommend you try something a little more adventurous than just pairing chocolate with more chocolate. What about pairing chocolate and cheese? Olivia Sutton from Melbourne’s Harper and Blohm Cheese Shop shares five of the best chocolate and cheese pairings that will add a little extra “oooh, yeah” to your Easter haul. And because Easter is all about indulgence, Hakim Halim of Melbourne’s Ripe Cheese shares his recipe for the ultimate salty and sweet chocolate and cheese toastie.
“Chocolate and cheese have a lot in common,” Sutton says. “The key to their combination is finding that magic spot where aromas, flavours and texture pair well. Both are best served at room temperature. And because good quality chocolate can have a tendency to dominate the palate, we recommend serving twice as much cheese as you do chocolate.”
1. Dark chocolate 70-80%
Try: complex aged cheeses, along the lines of an aged gouda
As a cheese ages, its flavour is concentrated. It’s that full-bodied flavour that’s needed to meet the challenge of an intense, high-percentage cocoa dark chocolate. In certain aged cheeses, you also get these fun little tyrosine crystals that give a pleasant textural crunch.
2. Milk chocolate 30-50%
Try: younger, fresh cheese such as a chèvre or soft, creamy white mould
A chocolate with a lower percentage of cocoa solids is perceived on the palate as sweeter, or at least less bitter than dark chocolate, regardless of its actual sugar content. Milk chocolates are best paired with mild and creamy white mould cheeses. Think of how you would add a dollop of cream to a chocolate mousse. It works the same way.
3. Lightly salted chocolate
Try: a nicely balanced blue cheese
A “nicely balanced” blue cheese is one that exhibits all the flavour characteristics of a blue cheese without being dominated by any one trait. Blue cheese can be creamy, spicy, fruity (yes, fruity), minerally and even salty. Steering away from any overly salty blue cheeses and towards the sweeter, creamier and fruitier end of the spectrum will complement without being overwhelmed by your lightly salted chocolate selection.
4. Milk chocolate with fruit
Try: semi-hard Alpine-style cheeses
The mild sweetness of a milk chocolate with fruit is just the foil required for an elegant semi-hard Alpine style cheese. These sophisticated cheeses exhibit a natural sweetness. This is backed up with earthy/nutty undertones and a gentle aroma that comes from the wildflowers and grass on which the dairy cows feed.
5. Milk chocolate with nuts
Try: an aged cheese such as a traditional cheddar or similar
Traditional cheddar has a fine, toothsome texture that somehow is still creamy in the mouth. It also has a savoury, complex flavour that stays with you. This pairing needs to adhere to our guideline of “more cheese than chocolate” to allow the cheese to shine. The crunch of the nut will amplify the cheddar’s perceived creaminess. Meanwhile, the lack of bitterness (due to the lower percentage of cocoa solids in milk chocolate) will allow the cheddar’s buttery mellow tang to stand true.
Triple cream brie and Nutella toastie
This is perfect for both the sweet tooth and the savoury food-lover. Ripe Cheese cheesemonger Hakim Halim shares his step-by-step guide to the perfect salty and sweet chocolate and cheese toastie. But first, some advice on making it spectacular.
“Always use dry/stale bread,” Halim says. “In fact, the drier/staler the bread, the crispier the toastie. To speed up the process of drying bread, leave slices uncovered in the fridge for a few hours. Sourdough is also best as it crunches nicely and adds depth of flavour.”
A generous slather of butter on the bread is also important to ensure the bread gets nice and crunchy. It also adds the bonus of a nutty burnt butter flavour.
“Temperature is important,” Halim says. “If it’s not hot enough, the toastie becomes soggy. Too hot will burnt the bread but not melt the cheese. The perfect temperature is 220°C, which most home grills can’t reach. The best technique would be to use a frypan on medium/high heat, with a smaller frypan on top of the toastie to act like a press.”
Makes 1 toastie
2 slices of stale sourdough bread (day-old or dried in the fridge for a few hours)
Some softened/melted butter
60g L’Artisan Extravagant triple cream brie, sliced into small pieces
1 tbsp Nutella
1 tsp crushed hazelnuts
Salt to taste
Icing sugar for garnish
1. Butter generously one side of each bread slice. Place buttered sides down on a board.
2. Spread the Nutella on one side of the sourdough.
3. Place the slices of triple cream brie on top.
4. Sprinkle with crushed hazelnut.
5. Toast in a sandwich press for 7 minutes. Or heat a frypan over medium heat. Place toastie in hot pan with a smaller frypan on top to act like a press. Flip after 3 minutes. Continue to toast the other side until bread is crispy and cheese is melted through.
6. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and dust with icing sugar.