I got naughty in my kitchen late last night. I indulged in an ooey gooey chocolate obsession. It was difficult to resist the call of a foil-wrapped gourmet 72% dark chocolate bar. I played with what I had on hand – pomegranate seeds, figs, dates. I got messy. I embraced imperfection. It was marvelous.
Chocolate feeds something primal inside of us. Perhaps it’s because our history with chocolate stretches all the way back to Pre-Columbian times, when the Maya and Olmec discovered a way to extract chocolate’s rich and complex flavor through fermentation and roasting. Kings and nobles would indulge in rich and spicy drinks made from cacao, cornmeal and chilies. Chocolate was only enjoyed as a beverage until the late 18th century, when chemists began attempting to convert it into a solid bar. The first versions were brittle and dry, nothing like the creamy bars we treat ourselves to today. It was the Dutch chemist Coenraad Van Houten and his method for Dutch process cocoa powder that eventually helped turn chocolate into a more desirable solid form. By the 19th century, American cookbooks were filled with recipes that called for chocolate as a flavoring in everything from frosting to jellies and soufflés. When Europe introduced chocolate candy-making methods, manufacturing quickly spread worldwide. By the late 1800s the chocolate candy industry was booming in the United States. Late last night it was booming in my kitchen.
I made simple and natural dark chocolate candies using three ancient fruits, all part of the Seven Species of Israel – pomegranates, figs and dates. The process was fun, easy, and creative. The result satisfied my deep-down yearning for chocolate. All in all, it was a night well spent.
I feel better indulging on these homemade Dark Chocolate Fruit Candies than I do a store-bought candy bar. Each piece of candy has two ingredients and I know exactly how it was made. The dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants. The fruits have their own unique health benefits, so I don’t need to feel guilty about treating myself. Two small pieces leave me completely happy, my sweet tooth fully satisfied.
I use fruit here, but you could just as easily use your favorite nuts (if you’re not worried about nut allergies). Dark chocolate is generally dairy-free, which is helpful for those avoiding milk products. For those who aren’t, I think milk chocolate would work just as well. Over time the chocolate may “bloom” (develop a light brown film) due to temperature fluctuations. This is simply separation of the cocoa butter and it does not affect the flavor of the candy. I’ve linked to David Lebovitz’s blog below for a chocolate tempering tutorial, it will help you avoid blooming if you want them to look absolutely perfect.
Keep the pomegranate dark chocolates in the fridge for up to a week. The others can stay at room temperature in a cool, dry place for 2-3 weeks, if they last that long. I’m guessing they won’t.
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- 4 bars dark chocolate (or 3 cups dark chocolate chips)
- 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
- 2/3 cup dates, chopped into small pieces
- 2/3 cup dried figs, chopped into small pieces
- Line a mini muffin pan with paper muffin cups. Break the dark chocolate bars into smaller pieces and slowly melt over a double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler, you can melt the chocolate in a glass, Pyrex or metal bowl set securely atop a pan of simmering water. Note: to avoid blooming (the filmy layer that sometimes rises to the surface of chocolate after it sets-- it doesn't affect flavor but it's not very pretty), you can temper the chocolate. You'll need a thermometer. David Lebovitz has terrific detailed instructions here.
- Once the chocolate is melted, spoon a little into each cup so that the bottom is completely covered.
- Spoon about 2 teaspoons of the pomegranate seeds into 12 of the chocolate cups, dividing the fruit evenly between the cups.
- Repeat with the chopped dates and figs (12 of each) until all of the cups have been filled.
- Cover the fruit candies with the remaining melted chocolate. Don't be afraid to get a little messy here. Embrace the imperfection. They don't need to look neat and tidy.
- Leave the chocolates in a cool, dry place for about 4 hours until set. You can speed up the process by placing them in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Over time the chocolate may "bloom" - a process in which the sugar or fat rises to surface of the chocolate and creates a cloudy or spotty appearance. They'll still taste great, they just won't be as pretty. As I mentioned above, you can temper the chocolate to avoid blooming.
- Keep the pomegranate dark chocolates in the fridge for up to a week. The others can stay at room temperature in a cool, dry place for 2-3 weeks.