Dessert platters are here to stay. There is no reason to individually plate puddings, or pull out the tart splades everytime you have people over. Sometimes the best, most relaxed end to a meal is a shared tray of treats.
Get some great chocolate, pick a flavour profile, grab some fresh fruit, some crunchy things and you’re half way there. Since we eat with our eyes first, taking a few minutes to arrange it nicely means it’s a cakewalk to serve. Life is short. If you’re not going to eat dessert first, then let’s at least make serving it easy. (In case you need some inspiration, here are some of our favourite combinations). Tuck in.
1) Sweet and Salty
Chocolate, salt and caramel you say? Is there a better combination? This could not be easier. Lay out some good quality squares of dark chocolate like Alter Eco, Lindsay & Edmunds or Pico’s organic salted butter caramel with some chocolate covered dates (you should definitely try these), roasted almonds, dark chocolate covered pretzels and some butter biscuits and you’ve got a Millionaire’s Shortbread inspired spread to make everyone feel they’re worth a mint.
2) Choc Berries
Chocolate and strawberries together are a controversial couple. Some folks think they spell romance. Others maintain that the acidity level of the strawberries isn’t an optimal match for the chocolate, and happily defer to other berries instead. Why don’t you put out a selection and let people make the decision for themselves? Break up a couple of different blocks of chocolate, in different intensities, going from the decidedly adult Alter Eco Deepest Dark Super Blackout 90% down to the sweetened with stevia Well Naturally Creamy Milk. Grab some fresh blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. Scatter over some dark choc covered incaberries. If you have the inclination, make it into a fondue, by gently melting some milk chocolate with double cream in 20 second bursts in the microwave, stirring well in between, give people some toothpicks and allow everyone to dunk the berries themselves.
3) Nuts About You
Chocolate and hazelnuts were made to be together (just ask Nutella). Yet there are plenty of other nuts who are just as happy to be paired with chocolate. Roughly chop up one block of milk chocolate and one of dark. Add a scattering of Baci kisses to the platter and use kitchen scissors to easily divide up a bar of chocolate hazelnut nougat. If you want some freshness, try slices of pear or figs. Then add some milk chocolate covered roasted almonds, walnuts, a pot of quality nut butter – and some spoons.
4) White Out
Some people might question whether white chocolate is chocolate. While it technically isn’t – since it doesn’t have any cocoa solids in it, but it still can be delicious. What it needs are things to cut through its sweetness. Try breaking up a block of white chocolate and pairing it with some fresh raspberries, cut passionfruit, sliced just-ripe banana and pineapple. You can also add some shards of toasted coconut and white chocolate liquorice bullets to the mix. If you want to go completely Heston Blumenthal, then follow his lead by adding caviar along with some blinis and crème fraiche. Apparently white chocolate and caviar share some of the same flavour compounds, making them great friends. (Or else you could add some Australian finger lime pearls, which have a similar look, but a much fresher tang).
5) S’more and More
Anyone who grew up with an exposure to American teen culture must have always wondered what the fuss about s’mores was. Let’s find out. We can hack a DIY Australian version by toasting marshmallows on skewers over a gas hob or a barbecue. Then combine them with McVities Digestive biscuits, marshmallows, squares of either dark or milk chocolate – or try a flavoured bar like Perugina’s chocolate milk with almonds. Shot glasses of milk (or whiskey) on the side are optional.
6) Mint Magic
What was the end of a 1980’s dinner party without a tray of after dinner mints? Here you can make your own. Try a couple of the great chocolate peppermint bars that are available (Well Natural makes one sweetened with stevia, Ritter Sport makes a praline bar and Alter Eco have their Deep Dark Crisp Mint). You could then add to that some small pots of simple dairy free chocolate mousse, made by blending together the flesh of a ripe avocado, 3 tbsp cocoa powder/raw cacao 1/2 tsp vanilla and 3 tbsp honey (or rice malt syrup/maple syrup) and a pinch of sea salt. Serve with some simple chocolate cookies for dunking (Franjo’s Cacao and Chia are a good choice) and some fresh mint tea made by steeping a bunch of fresh mint in boiling water for five minutes.