- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A cookbook that arrived at my desk recently was not only beautiful to look at but engaging enough for me to want to cook many of the recipes.

“Chocolate for Breakfast: The Cookbook, Oak Knoll Inn, Napa Valley” (Hoberman Collection) by Barbara Passino, is a wonderful collection of recipes from her luxurious bed-and-breakfast in Napa, Calif. As I looked at the pages, I came across a recipe for chocolate fondue.

Can it be that chocolate fondue, a dessert I cooked up for my senior project in college many years ago, has made a comeback? Yes, it’s true, and luckily for us, we can use all the fabulous chocolates now available to create a sublime dessert in just a few minutes.

I was taught you couldn’t use a metal fondue pot for chocolate. I think it may be because metal will heat faster and cause the chocolate to burn and also because it is not so easy to clean. I prefer a ceramic fondue pot because the heat can be adjusted properlyto prevent the chocolate from burning.

Many ceramic fondue pots are available, and they can be very inexpensive to quite pricey. Look on the Web or at your favorite cook store for a version that best suits your needs. The ceramic pots are preferred for making cheese fondue as well. Make sure the pot comes with fondue forks for dipping.

This is a dessert that is easy to make for as few as 2 or as many as 8 people by multiplying the recipe and making sure your pot is large enough. Try using bittersweet Scharffen Berger, Valrhona, E. Guittard, Ghirardelli or Vosges. You can also use Nestle’s chocolate chips for a sweeter version. Remember that the chocolate should be in chip pieces or cut into small pieces.

At Oak Knoll Inn, this bittersweet warm potion is served at breakfast and also as a dessert. I like to serve it for dessert because it fits into my Seriously Simple philosophy.

The most fun is to decide what to dip into the chocolate. Fruit, cake and brownies are just the beginning. You can use dried fruit like mango or peaches and cubes of pound cake. I like to put out an assortment of fresh bananas, strawberries, apples, pears, pineapple, grapes or cherries. I also love serving cut-up marshmallows, muffins or even plain doughnuts.

If you want something really unusual, try dipping pretzels for a salty-sweet experience.

Help is on the way:

• Have all dipping ingredients (fruit, cake, etc.) cut up and arranged on a serving platter before you make the fondue.

• Prepare the fondue and then transfer to the fondue pot with a tea light underneath to keep the fondue at the correct temperature for dipping.

• If the pot is too hot and the chocolate is too hot, raise the height of the pot from the candle and stir the mixture.

• Alternative: For a spicy version, add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and substitute tequila for the cognac. Serve with crispy flour tortilla and plantain chips.

Chocolate fondue from ‘Chocolate for Breakfast’

Makes 2 servings.

1/2 cup whipping cream

8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

2 tablespoons cognac or brandy

Special equipment: a chocolate fondue pot or a ramekin set over a votive candle (like the type used to serve melted butter at a lobster bake) and small forks or skewers to spear the cake and fruit

Arrange the pound cake and fruit on a plate.

Dipping choices include squares of orange zest, pound cake, strawberries, large perfect raspberries or boysenberries, baby bananas, fresh fig halves, white nectarines, apricots. Let what’s fresh in the market and your imagination be your guide.

Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour it in a bowl over the chopped chocolate. Whisk until velvety smooth. Add the cognac and pour the mixture into the ramekin.

Transfer to the fondue pot and serve immediately.


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