Chocolate

Chocolate Lace Is the Addictive, Salty-Sweet Treat You've Been Waiting For

Proof, yet again, that chocolate and bread just go together.

January 29, 2019
Photo by James Ransom

I may have tasted bread and chocolate for the first time at a breathtakingly inexpensive, family-run bed-and-breakfast in Amsterdam in 1970. We were camping and budget-hoteling through Europe, as baby boomers famously did in those times. The B&B was probably listed in the Harvard student Let’s Go travel guide. It was a typical Amsterdam house, tall and extremely narrow. Still inhabited by at least some of the family, every spare room on every floor had been turned into sleeping quarters for students.

Breakfast was a memorably generous spread including bread and butter and cured meats and cheeses. There was always a bowl of chocolate sprinkles (jimmies) on the table—and I don’t remember what else. I would not have known what to do with the chocolate sprinkles, but I saw others spreading butter lavishly on bread or rolls then encrusting the butter with chocolate. You didn’t have to show me twice.

If that was my first bread and chocolate, it was because we started and ended that trip in Amsterdam. Paris—and pain au chocolat—was yet to come. And a good thing that. The flakey, buttery croissant filled with chocolate would have been a hard act to follow. I like to think the younger me would still have appreciated the simpler bread with butter with jimmies, but there is no underestimating the suave seduction of the French pâtissier (or the callowness of youth). Would it or they have spoiled me for the Dutch treat? I cannot know.

Since then I’ve sought and enjoyed bread and chocolate in as many forms as possible: I’ve stuffed baguettes with sweet or salted butter and great shards of 70% bittersweet chocolate (a real step up from the jimmies, I have to admit). I’ve made gooey, oozing grilled chocolate sandwiches sprinkled with flakey sea salt, rich chocolate babka, decadent chocolate bread puddings, and even Nutella bread pudding. I’ve enjoyed warm corn tortillas buttered and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and cocoa nibs.

About 10 years ago, working with a California olive oil producer, I served bread and chocolate with olive oil in the form of clusters, invented by a friend. We cut the crusts from fat loaves of French bread and then sliced the de-crusted loaves super thin. We shredded the slices with our fingers, toasted them briefly, then drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and some flakey sea salt. Finally we tossed the shreds in just enough dark chocolate to make a very thin coating—before spooning the whole business out to make clusters.

The result was slightly sweet and slightly savory, each bite a lacy network of crispy chocolate-coated shreds interspersed with a few shreds so soaked in the superb oil that, when least expected, gushed ever so slightly (if you were paying close attention). Need I say more?

Unfortunately, we did not weigh or measure anything exactly while making those clusters. Fortunately, I took some notes—and managed to resurrect them. I’ve recreated those clusters as a lacy break-up bark, using those notes plus my memories of how everything looked and felt. Chocolate lace is fun to make, a superb hostess gift, and a nice way to treat yourself at the end of the day.

The result was slightly sweet and slightly savory, each bite a lacy network of crispy chocolate-coated shreds interspersed with a few shreds so soaked in the superb oil that, when least expected, gushed ever so slightly (if you were paying close attention).

Do I still chase bread and chocolate? The night before last, at a California Historical Society event celebrating our state’s history of food and drink, I tasted a slice of crusty and chewy whole grain bread made with Community Grains organic whole wheat. The bread was magnificent, both alone and with butter. Regardless, I couldn’t help dashing to the Guittard Chocolate table to wrap it around a chunk of Guittard’s superb milk chocolate. I repeated that performance twice—just to prove that it was a brilliant call.

Have you ever eaten anything like this? Let us know in the comments below.

2 Comments

Julie L. February 2, 2019
Alice this looks incredible! Chocolate, salt & bread plus some almonds because why not!!<br />I can't wait to try them.<br />
 
Katherine D. January 29, 2019
This sounds so incredible I immediately looked at my calendar for an excuse to make this!