Is chocolate a food fit for the gods? The early Aztecs certainly thought so. Of course, the chocolate they drank was a long way from what we are familiar with: they had no sugar and often flavored it with chilies. It wasn’t until chocolate was imported to Spain that the cocoa bean was mixed with sugar, creating a flavor that has been loved for centuries.
Most of the early experiments with chocolate involved dipping it and by the middle of the 19th century, many Europeans were happily combining it with nuts. Today, the two tastes are so loved that there is even a National Chocolate Covered Nuts Day (every February 28th). What are the best nuts to pair with chocolate? Here are four suggestions:
It would be hard to write about chocolate without recognizing the walnut. Not only do the two tastes compliment each other perfectly, they are both thought to be ‘heart healthy’ foods. So, if you’re making anything from chocolate cake to dark fudgy brownies, don’t forget to add the walnuts for the best flavor.
If you’re thinking of an elegant dessert, look no further than the hazelnut. Chocolate truffles and rich hazelnut tortes are the pièce de résistance in many of the most exclusive five star restaurants. If you do indulge, you’ll be happy to know that when you eat the hazelnut, like the walnut, you are including a heart friendly nut to your diet.
But don’t stop there. If you want to be on the cutting edge of dessert cuisine, consider using Nutella. Nutella is a spread that combines hazelnuts and chocolate into a very rich (and nearly addictive) cream. Not only will substituting Nutella in your cupcakes, cakes and pastries make an elegant dessert, but using it as a frosting will add just the right final touch to any of your usual baking creations.
If you’re lucky enough to have a fresh supply of chestnuts, you might want to roast them before opening them and dipping them in chocolate. Just serve them with a light sprinkling of coconut and you’re done! Of course, if you’re in the mood for a serious cake, few bakers would argue that sweet chestnuts and rich, flavorful chocolate make one of the best pairings.
Finally, we should not forget about the almond. You’ll find this pairing in all kinds of recipes from biscotti to tortes and cakes. In Greece, roasted almonds dipped in chocolate line the trays of nearly every confectioners window. If you are considering making these at home, try blanching them and adding a bit of cinnamon. Few things are as simple, elegant or delicious.
Of course, don’t let these ideas stop you. Nuts and chocolate are an ancient and luxurious delight. So, get creative and get cooking. Where nuts and chocolate are concerned, you can’t go wrong.