Forget the bread, crackers and fruit: Who knew that plain chocolate, chocolate truffles and chocolate-covered caramels—the latter two with prominent dairy and buttery notes—pair so well with cheese?
We know that chocolate cheesecake, and a chocolate ganache topping on regular cheesecake, are delicious. So how about serving a piece of cheese with a piece of chocolate?
If you love both cheese and chocolate, you can have a party that pairs both, for Valentine’s Day or any special occasion. You can pair almost any cheese, from a sweet mascarpone to a mushroomy Brie to a tangy blue. You can also add toasted nuts and a libation of choice. But start with some guidance from the experts.
When deciding on pairings, contrast textures in the cheese and chocolate. For example, try a soft, creamy cheese with a simple dark chocolate square, or a hard, crumbly cheese drizzled with chocolate ganache.
Lake Champlain Chocolates offers these insights:
Soft ripened goat’s, sheep’s or cow’s milk cheeses tend to be more pungent, acidic and aggressive and pair well with both dark chocolate and milk chocolate.
Cheese and chocolate? Absolutely! Photo courtesy DallmanConfections.com.
Aged cheese is nutty, and less acidic, with a crunchy texture that pairs well with chocolates with fillings and inclusions, such as almonds, honey and maple.
Blue cheese, with its sharp, pungent aromas and flavors, enhances the undertones of bittersweet dark chocolate (70% or higher cacao content).
Bittersweet chocolates with salty cheeses, like aged Asiago, Parmesan or pecorino.
Dark chocolate with complex, aged cheeses such as Beaufort, Cheshire, aged Gruyère, Manchego.
Milk chocolate with fresh, sweet cheese like crescenza, cream cheese, crème fraîche, mascarpone, ricotta, and Teleme; or buttery, semisoft cheeses like Brie, creamy blues, triple crèmes and washed rind cheeses.
Chocolate with nuts or dried fruits with creamier, semisoft cheeses as well as aged, more complex cheeses, such as Asiago, Cheddar, fontina, Gouda, or beer or wine washed rind cheeses.
Spicy chocolates with sharp cheeses that are not overly salty: aged Gouda and aged Jack for example.
RealCaliforniaMilk.com suggests pairing:
Fresh goat cheese with its creamy tartness with dense milk or dark chocolate truffles.
Soft, ripened cheese with dark chocolate, especially those spiced with cinnamon, cayenne or anise for a more complex flavor profile. Try Aztec chocolate with aged goat cheese.
Aged cheese with nutty notes, such as good Cheddar, well with an almond chocolate bar or chocolate-covered almonds. Bonbons with honey and maple fillings work, too.
Strong blue cheese, sharp and pungent with semisweet dark chocolate. Try a great blue like Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue with a simple bar of 50% to 65% cacao.
Vermont Creamery likes these pairings:
Jasper Hill’s chocolate and cheese Valentine git set. Photo courtesy Jasper Hill Farm.
You can download an extensive party guide from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, but here are the highlights:
Alpine-style cheese like Gruyère or Emmental, with milk chocolate. Since the Alpine cheeses have nutty notes, you can also pair add some nuts, from plain almonds or walnuts to rosemary cashews.
Aged Cheddar with chocolate-dipped bacon or with Aztec (spicy) dark chocolate. Hints of cayenne or other pepper really work with Cheddar. Also try spicy chocolate with a blue cheese.
Aged Parmesan with dark chocolate and oatmeal stout. The nutty flavor of aged Parmesan also invites dark chocolate covered almonds. If you’re a beer drinker, try it with an oatmeal stout.
Blue cheese with dark chocolate truffles and a glass of Port. Blue cheese and Port are already a popular pairing. The dark chocolate bridges the saltiness of the cheese and the sweetness of the wine.
Mixed milk cheese—a combination of cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk—tend to have an intense earthy flavor. Pair them with white chocolate, with its sweeter counterpoint. If you like, add some cranberry chutney. These earthy cheeses also work well with chocolate-covered salt caramels. Yum!
The great British chef Heston Blumenthal pairs caviar and white chocolate. So if you have a favorite food, test it with a bite of dark, milk or white chocolate to see if it works.
CHEESE & CHOCOLATE GIFT BOX
Brooklyn chocolatiers the Mast brothers, known for their small batch, artisan chocolate bars, joined up with Jasper Hill Farm to develop a milk chocolate trio that showcases the flavors of cow’s, sheep’s, and goat’s milks.
It’s a rare experience to see how a chocolate bar made with other animal milks compare with the familiar cow’s milk used in all conventional milk chocolate. Here’s your chance! These particular bars are made with semisweet 60% cacao that has naturally nutty notes. But what you’ll also find is that:
The cow’s milk bar has toasty notes of tobacco and wood smoke.
The goat’s milk bar has notes of citrus and date.
The sheep’s milk bar tastes of dulce du leche and fresh dairy.
Bayley Hazen Blue, made with raw cow’s milk, a creamy blue cheese with sweet undertones (8 ounces). Pairing with chocolate brings out its buttery flavors of the milk.
Weybridge, made with organic cow’s milk, a bright, dense cheese with an edible bloomy rind. A bright, tangy cheese, it has a yogurty flavor that becomes more intense and gamey as it ages. It’s made in a limited-edition heart shaped just for Valentine’s Day (3.5 ounces).
Jasper Hill Farm has created a Cheese & Chocolate Gift Box that pairs this unique chocolate trio with two chocolate-loving cheeses. Each gift box contains the three 2.5-ounce chocolate bars plus:
The gift box is $62.00 at JasperHillFarm.Shop.com. You can order any time and specify your preferred delivery date.