While chocolate and cheese are an unusual pairing, they're not as mutually exclusive as one would think. Consider chocolate cheesecake or the chocolate drizzled on cannoli, for example. This dessert, which pairs a wedge of double creme cheese with squares of dark chocolate and dead ripe figs, takes this concept to a whole new level. So simple, yet at the same time sophisticated and, well, pretty sexy, too.
The original inspiration for this dessert was quite a locavore moment for me: Cowgirl Creamery's Inverness Cheese (a triple creme) served on a Poco Dolce chocolate tile, both Bay Area companies, as suggested by the cheesemonger at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market in San Francisco.
I took a bite and was immediately in intrigued. Somehow, the chocolate and the cheese enhanced each other, the creamy dairy of the cheese first coming forth and finishing with the slightly bitter chocolate. I loved it, but I wanted to offer something for The Kitchn that would more likely to be available in places beyond San Francisco. So I went shopping. And that, by the way, is a hallmark of this dessert: while it requires no cooking and very little time in the kitchen, it does require some careful shopping!
First, stop at your local cheese shop and speak with your cheesemonger about the kind of cheese to purchase. Explain that you are paring it with chocolate and ask if they have any recommendations. If there are no cheese shops in your area, try your local co-op or Whole Foods Market. And if that's not possible either, you can still check out your supermarket's cheese section. These days it possible to find a nice double-or triple-creme cheese, or even a goat's cheese, in many supermarkets. I went to The Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley and came away with Cremont, a double-cream from Vermont.
Many cheese shops also sell chocolate, so you might be able to pick up your chocolate while you're there. Dark chocolate works best with this pairing -- look for a fruiter chocolate with a higher percentage of cacao. I picked up a bar of Spanish chocolate called Blanxart 72% Dark Chocolate at my local grocery store. They also had almost ripe figs for sale, so when I left the store, I was good to go. ( As figs move out of season, you can consider other fruits such as pears or perhaps even ripe persimmons.)
You can serve this dessert individually by placing a few squares of chocolate, a small wedge of cheese and a ripe fig or two, cut in half, on plates. Or, for a dramatic presentation, place a whole wheel of your cheese on a board or platter, and scatter the chocolate and figs around it. Pass the platter at your table or use this as an excuse to move to the living room where people can help themselves.
My favorite way to eat this is to spread some of the cheese on a small square of chocolate and pop it into my mouth. The cheese will be the first taste, rich and milky with a slight twang, followed by the deep, slightly bitter darkness of the chocolate. You may want to experiment with sprinkling a little crunchy, flakey sea salt on top. (This may or may not work, depending on the saltiness of your cheese.) I love to follow this up with the fig which is sweet and juicy and cleanses my palate for another bite!
One last note: while I bill this as a dessert, it also makes a nice hors d'oeuvre or elegant late afternoon snack, especially when paired with port.
(Images: Dana Velden)