Fruity desserts for chocolate lovers

Chocolate and banana are two great things that go great together. (photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
Chocolate and banana are two great things that go great together.
(photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
Desserts of chocolate with fruit are not new. Pears Belle Helene, for example, made of poached pears, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream, is a classic combination.
Yet fruit and chocolate desserts were not common in the first half of the 20th century. In the 1950s, most people would have found the idea of pairing chocolate and fruit rather strange. When I asked a French pastry chef in Paris in the late 1970s what he thought of chocolate-dipped strawberries, which were becoming popular in the US, he said it sounded like a ridiculous idea.
Today, all sorts of fruits are paired with chocolate. Top choices are sweet fruits like bananas, cherries and raisins. But fruits that are somewhat tart, like green apples and kiwis, are also matched with chocolate.
Deep-pink raspberry buttercream flavored with pureed raspberries is a favorite filling – and frosting – of ours for a chocolate layer cake. We love chocolate banana Bavarian cream, which we make with alternating layers of banana and chocolate custard.
Carole Bloom, author of Intensely Chocolate, makes a chocolate passion-fruit tart with a passion-fruit ganache (chocolate and cream) filling.
As a garnish, fruit contributes color and flavor to chocolate desserts. For a chocolate- glazed cake, fresh raspberries or nectarine slices make a beautiful adornment; orange segments are attractive, too, especially when half of each segment is dipped in melted chocolate. Slices of bananas can be used as a topping as long as they are added at the last minute.
A modernist technique for using bananas as a garnish without having them discolor is to sprinkle frozen banana slices with sugar and caramelize them with a blow torch; that is what Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet do in their impressive book, Modernist Cuisine at Home. To make a garnish of raspberry sprinkles, they grind freeze-dried raspberries in a blender.
Some fruits are baked into chocolate cakes or pastries. Bloom bakes apple and chocolate chunks in her bittersweet chocolate apple pecan strudel. She mixes diced bananas into the batter of her cocoa-banana muffins and adds toasted macadamia nuts.
To make chocolate persimmon muffins, Kim Boyce, author of Good to the Grain, mixes persimmon pulp and chopped bittersweet chocolate into cocoa-flavored batter.
Moreover, bakers add chopped fresh figs to chocolate cake batter, make blueberry brownies by mixing fresh, frozen or dried blueberries into brownie batter, and bake chocolate raspberry cookies from raspberry puree blended into chocolate cookie dough.
The simplest way to pair chocolate and fruit is to accompany a chocolate dessert with sliced fruit. At a chocolate seminar presented by the French chocolate company Valrhona, we enjoyed a dessert of thin wedges of fine chocolate accompanied by a scoop of chocolate sorbet and banana slices brushed with apricot glaze. We find this kind of light dessert appealing when ending a big meal.
Around the world, people will be eating chocolate for Valentine’s Day. In our family, chocolate is welcome any day, but Valentine’s Day is a convenient excuse to enjoy a special chocolate dessert.
Faye Levy is the author of the award-winning cookbook Chocolate Sensations. A condensed Hebrew version, Shokolad!, was published by R. Sirkis.
Chocolate-Banana Bavarian Cream
This layered dessert is made from one custard mixture that is divided in two and flavored. It is served like a cheesecake; it requires no turning out, just removing the sides of a springform pan. The chocolate and banana layers form an attractive striped pattern.
If you like, garnish with whipped cream and grated chocolate.
Makes 8 servings
❖ Scant 1 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin
❖ ¼ cup water
❖ 1 cup milk
❖ 4 large egg yolks
❖ 5 Tbsp. sugar
❖ 85 gr. (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate, chopped
❖ 1 large banana (about 200 gr. or 7 ounces)
❖ 1 tsp. fresh strained lemon juice
❖ 1½ cups whipping cream, well-chilled
Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small cup. Bring milk to a boil in a small heavy saucepan. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl. Add sugar; whisk until smooth.
Gradually whisk in hot milk.
Return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring mixture and scraping bottom of pan constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture thickens slightly and reaches 75ºC (165ºF to 170ºF) on an instant-read or candy thermometer, about 5 minutes.
(To check without thermometer, remove pan from heat, dip a metal spoon in mixture and draw your finger across back of spoon – your finger should leave a clear trail in mixture that clings to spoon.) Remove from heat and immediately add softened gelatin; whisk until it completely dissolves. Pour custard into a large bowl; stir about 30 seconds to cool.
Melt chocolate in a medium bowl over nearly simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove from water; cool 5 minutes. Add 2/3 cup custard to chocolate; whisk until blended. Puree banana with lemon juice in a food processor until smooth. Measure 2/3 cup puree.
Whisk into remaining plain custard. Cool both mixtures, stirring occasionally.
Lightly oil a 20-cm. (8-inch) springform pan. Refrigerate banana mixture about 20 minutes, or set bowl in a larger bowl of iced water for 10 minutes, stirring very often, or until mixture is cold and beginning to thicken but is not set.
In a large chilled bowl, whip 1½ cups cream until nearly stiff. Gently fold 2 cups whipped cream into banana mixture. Refrigerate remaining whipped cream. Spoon 1½ cups banana mixture into prepared mold; spread evenly. Freeze 10 minutes, leaving remaining banana and chocolate mixtures at room temperature.
If chocolate mixture has not begun to thicken, refrigerate or set bowl of mixture in a large bowl of ice water 3 to 5 minutes, stirring very often, or until mixture is cold and beginning to thicken but is not set. Fold remaining whipped cream into chocolate mixture. Gently spoon 1½ cups chocolate mixture into mold; spread smooth.
Tap mold on work surface so mixture settles. Freeze 10 minutes, leaving remaining banana and chocolate mixtures at room temperature.
Add remaining banana mixture to mold; spread gently. Freeze 10 minutes. Add remaining chocolate mixture; spread gently. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours or until set. (Dessert can be kept, covered, 2 days in refrigerator.) To unmold dessert, rinse a towel in warm water.
Squeeze so it is just damp. Wrap towel around edges of mold; leave about 5 seconds. Gently release spring to remove side of pan. Leave dessert on base of pan; set on a round platter. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Bittersweet Chocolate, Apple and Pecan Strudel
This recipe is from Intensely Chocolate. Author Carole Bloom wrote: “Be sure to thaw the filo dough in the refrigerator at least a day in advance.” You can serve the strudel warm or at room temperature, and can reheat it in a 180ºC (350ºF) oven for about 8 minutes.
You can store the strudel tightly covered with foil at room temperature for 2 days. Bloom prefers Granny Smith apples, but you can use other tart, green apples. If you like, serve the strudel with bittersweet or white chocolate ice cream.
Makes three 20- x 7.5-cm (8- x 3-inch) strudels, 12 to 15 servings
❖ 2/3 cup (70 gr. or 2½ ounces) pecans
❖ 2 large or 3 medium Granny Smith apples (about 500 grams or 1 to 1¼ pounds)
❖ 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
❖ 1 tsp. pure vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
❖ 2 Tbsp. firmly packed light brown sugar
❖ 170 gr. (6 ounces) bittersweet chocolate (66% to 72% cacao content), chopped into small chunks
❖ 18 half-size (23- x 30-cm. or 9 x 12-inch) sheets filo dough, thawed
❖ 85 gr. (3 ounces or 6 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
❖ 30 gr. (1 ounce) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (for garnish)
Center a rack in oven and preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Place pecans in a cake or pie pan and toast in oven for 8 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool; then chop pecans fine.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick liner. Peel, quarter and core apples, then cut them into 2.5-cm. (1-inch-) thick chunks. Place in a large mixing bowl and add lemon juice, vanilla bean paste and brown sugar. Toss to coat apples completely and let mixture stand for 10 minutes. Add chocolate chunks and stir to blend well.
Keep filo dough covered with a damp paper towel so it doesn’t dry out. Take one sheet of filo dough and lay it across the width of the baking sheet at one short end. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the filo dough with melted butter. Repeat with 5 more sheets of the filo.
Take one-third of the apple mixture and spread it along the center of the filo, lengthwise. Leave 5 cm. (2 inches) at the short ends and 7.5 cm. (3 inches) at the long ends. Fold the short ends of the filo dough into the center and brush lightly with butter, then fold the long ends in and brush them lightly with butter. Use a long-bladed offset metal spatula to turn the strudel over so the seam is on the bottom.
Repeat with remaining sheets of filo dough, butter and filling, making two more strudels.
Bake strudels for 20 to 25 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove pan from oven and cool on a rack.
For garnish, melt the finely chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl on low power in 30-second bursts, stirring after each burst. Pour the melted chocolate into a parchment paper pastry cone or a plastic snack bag. Fold down or seal the top and snip off a tiny piece of the pointed end. Hold the cone about 2.5 cm (1 inch) above the surface of the strudel.
Drizzle the chocolate over the strudels, moving from side to side, forming thin lines across the tops.
Let the chocolate set at room temperature, about 15 minutes.
Cut 5-cm. (2-inch) slices of strudel across the width and serve.