Decadent and Balanced: Chocolate Desserts that Work

by Caroline Hatchett and Jessica Dukes
Antoinette Bruno
January 2011

Chocolate—in some form—is on every dessert menu we see, seducing the weak chocoholic and insatiable sweet tooth. But most chocolate desserts fall flat. They often lack balance: they’re too rich and lack acidity. But these Chicago pastry chefs reminded us (and our inner chocolate-snob) why we love chocolate. Here’s a lineup of delicious, decadent chocolate desserts that work.

 

Criollo Chocolate, Blackberry Foam, Borage, Milk Meringue, and Tonka Bean Ice Cream

Pastry Chef Patrick Fahy of Blackbird Chicago, IL
Criollo Chocolate, Blackberry Foam, Borage, Milk Meringue, and Tonka Bean Ice Cream

A classic vanilla-chocolate pairing comes in the form of Tonka Bean ice cream and rich, liquid ganache made from rare Criollo chocolate. Vivid blackberry foam introduces vibrant acidic contrast, while borage provides vegetal accents and bright white milk meringue punctuates the dish with a sweet crunch.

Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache, Verjus, Violet, and Cassia Bud Sherbet

Pastry Chef Bryce Caron of Custom House Tavern Chicago, IL
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache, Verjus, Violet, and Cassia Bud Sherbet

The untamed Valhrona Guanaja chocolate in Caron’s ganache is intense, but it’s offset by a streak of bright verjus and a veritable garden of floral flavors. Crumbs of violet and almond flower oil meringue surround the chocolate. And sherbet made from cassia buds—unopened flowers from the cinnamon tree—imbues a soft cinnamon flavor only petals could produce.

Chocolate Cake, White and Dark Mousse, IQF Gooseberry Sorbet, and Chocolate Jam

Pastry Chef Jimmy MacMillan of Cathedral Hall Chicago, IL
Chocolate Cake, White and Dark Mousse, IQF Gooseberry Sorbet, and Chocolate Jam

Atop MacMillan’s chocolate cake sit both extremes of the chocolate spectrum: sweet, creamy white and bitter dark. To stay local in colder months, he uses flash-frozen gooseberries for a bright sorbet. And a jam of 71% Venezuelan single bean chocolate, raspberries, and blackberries, dresses the plate with a rich and joyous brushstroke.

Chocolate, Pomegranate: Devil's Food Cake, Dark Chocolate Cream, Fresh Pomegranate, Orange Blossom Ice Cream, and Tuile

Pastry Greg Mosko of North Pond Chicago, IL
Chocolate, Pomegranate: Devil's Food Cake, Dark Chocolate Cream, Fresh Pomegranate, Orange Blossom Ice Cream, and Tuile

Mexico and tequila inspire the bright specks of lime zest and fleur de sel on Mosko’s North African-inspired chocolate dish, which is cut sharply by fresh pomegranate and pomegranate sauce and softened by floral notes from a gorgeous orange blossom ice cream.

Single Origin Venezuelan Chocolate Cake, Smoked Chocolate Gelato, Cacao Fruit, and Cocoa Nibs

Pastry Chef Kady Yon of Boka Chicago, IL
Single Origin Venezuelan Chocolate Cake, Smoked Chocolate Gelato, Cacao Fruit, and Cocoa Nibs

Yon uses every part of the cacao pod but the skin in this ode to chocolate. The cake supplies ample richness, and dairy-free, hickory-smoked chocolate gelato and sour cacao fruit bring balance to the plate. She plays up chocolate’s natural bitterness with crunchy cacao nibs and chocolate-espresso sauce.