I've had a long-standing love affair with chocolate.
However, my passion and appreciation for it soared to new heights when I lived in Belgium for 16 months after college. I was introduced to "real chocolate." Chocolate made without the wax we seem to use here for preservation. Chocolate with fresh ingredients -- no chemically inspired names. Chocolate so fresh that you had to eat in within a certain time frame or keep it in the refrigerator or it would spoil. Chocolate that was so decadent and luscious, you couldn't keep from moaning aloud when you consumed it.
I soon became accustomed to picking out one delectable piece when I would go down to the Grand Place in Brussels with my friends and enjoying it completely. You only need one when it's literally the best piece of chocolate you've ever had. You enjoy and savor it. It completes you...sorry....I was drooling.
One delightful Saturday, some of us went to a wonderful warm and charming restaurant/cafe called Le Pain du Quotidien (or in English..."Daily Bread"). They have some here too in the U.S., but there's nothing like having french bread in a francophone country. Truly.
This is where I should mention that I also have a thing for bread...warm, crusty baguettes and boules. I have frequently dined on bread alone and thought myself the luckiest girl in the world. Add in some European-style yogurt and cheese and it's pretty much the best day ever!
Unless...you add in chocolate.
That Saturday as my friends and I sat around the blonde wooden communal table with our cafe au lait and bread, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Pure chocolate creamy perfection....in an adorable little crock with a knife. Intrigued, I pulled it closer and realized...wonder of wonders...that it was a spread for my baguette!
Oh the joy that ensued. I may not have spoken for the rest of breakfast. I may just have rolled my eyes in pleasure and groaned as my waistband got tighter.
This is where I tell you that this was not Nutella. I don't have anything against Nutella, but it cannot hold a candle to what I experienced that day. I'm not a huge fan of the hazelnut, so for me, Nutella is simply "meh!"
However, this dark chocolate spread was semi-sweet, dark chocolate goodness.
(Did I mention that living in Belgium sealed the deal of my eternal allegiance to dark chocolate? Milk chocolate is it's lame weak-sauce cousin as far as I'm concerned.)
Over the years since I've moved back to the U.S. and built a life here, I've thought about that chocolate spread over the years. When I my newly-married husband and I were able to travel there for a vacation, that restaurant was the first place we hit off the airplane. (He concurred with all my rapturous descriptions, btw.) One of my friends who still lives in "Belgique" once mailed me a jar of it from the store (best gift ever!)
I once found a "chocolate frosting" jar of something similar at Trader Joe's. It was good...but it wasn't quite right. I resigned myself to a life without my chocolate paradise.
Until the other night.
I was making some cake balls that I found on Pinterest. The recipe called for me melt down chocolate chips and then roll the cake balls made from dough in it. So, I melted down semi-sweet chocolate chips in my "poor man's double boiler."
Little did I know that I would stumble upon the recipe for my heart's desire. While it ended up not being the best chocolate covering for the dessert I was attempting to make, (I think you'd need some paraffin or hardening agent to make it work better and not melt off the dough balls) I found out the next day that it was the perfect consistency for spreading on bread or dipping pretzels in.
It made my week...maybe month. Sad, but true!
Here's how you can do it too...
Decadent Chocolate Spread
- 2 cups semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
- 1 to 2 Tbsp butter or shortening
- 2-3 Tbsp milk
Simply place a heat-safe bowl inside/over a pot of boiling water and watch carefully. The ideal is to make sure it won't sit down too low into the pot, or be too unstable where it would tip to far over to the side. You want to keep steam from escaping through the sides of the bowl, but if you lose a little that way, it's okay. Just make sure not to let the water evaporate in the pan (like I did) and scorch it.
Then pour chocolate chips in and allow to melt. You'll need to stir them every now and again. Add in 1-2 Tsp of butter (or Crisco) to allow it to spread easier. It will also create a "fat" that will help the chocolate to not stay lumpy. Add in some milk...about 2 Tbsp or more if needed to thin and melt. Stir until completely mixed and completely smooth.
When completely cooled, scoop into plastic or glass container and keep refrigerated. But don't expect it to last long.