Some bacon with your milk chocolate?
The other day, after polishing off a chocolate-bacon tartlet at Gramercy Tavern and then talking myself down from the order-a-second-one ledge, I got to thinking about milk chocolate. I'm a dark-chocolate gal myself-the darker and more bitter the better-but even I have to admit that when it comes to pairing chocolate with several kinds of bold flavors, milk chocolate should get the nod. Because milk chocolate is sweeter than semi- or bittersweet- chocolate and because it is, as its name declares, blended with milk, it has a milder, mellower personality. It's the chocolate that plays well with others.
In the past couple of weeks, I've seen milk chocolate playing peacefully and deliciously with:
Bacon: First there was the fabulous tartlet: milk chocolate ganache topped with a spoonful of crème fraîche, minced crisp bacon and a few flakes of Maldon sea salt (the bacon and salt were crispy, crunchy and reminiscent of streusel). Then there was the addictively delicious Mo's Bacon Bar from Vosges Chocolates, made with applewood-smoked bacon, alder-smoked sea salt, and milk chocolate with a whopping 41% cacao.
Passion fruit: It was Pierre Herme's passion fruit-chocolate mousse. It's hard to pair tangy citrus with chocolate and near impossible to pair even tangier passion fruit, but milk chocolate made the match perfect.
Licorice: I was given a bag of milk-chocolate coated Kookaburra black Liquorice from Australia and found it really intriguing-the sweet chocolate (and this chocolate was really sweet) was nice with the meaty, anise flavor of the licorice, so nice that it made me think I'd like to make a chocolate-licorice crème brûlée, maybe put a layer of milk chocolate ganache in the bottom of the ramekin and then a licorice custard (made with licorice powder) on top.
By the way, if you're going to make something with milk chocolate at home, look for a milk chocolate that has a relatively high percentage of cocoa. While US law says that anything with 10% cocoa solids can be called milk chocolate, if you use a chocolate with about 30%, you'll end up with a dessert that will have more flavor, more complexity and, in most cases when you're adding off-beat ingredients, more balance.Dorie Greenspan, special correspondent
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