Although these decadent treats may look like they came from an expensive chocolate boutique, dipping your own fruit is surprisingly simple and won’t cost you a fortune. All it requires is some fundamental knowledge about chocolate.
For starters, pick a dark chocolate that contains from 60 to 70 percent cocoa. These varieties have a stronger, more intense flavor thanks to a greater cocoa content. They also have a higher proportion of antioxidants that provide valuable disease-fighting potential. Using a higher quality chocolate creates a more pronounced sheen on the berries as well once the chocolate has set.
Melting the chocolate in a microwave oven is easiest. However, chocolate melts at a temperature between 80 and 90 degrees and can burn quickly if not watched carefully. To prevent it from burning, heat the chocolate in 10-second bursts, stirring after each interval.
The alternative method for melting chocolate – over hot water – requires even more care. Chocolate contains a starch that hates moisture and it will react to even a drop of water by “seizing up,” turning rock hard and grainy. Once this happens, nothing can coax it to melt smoothly again. To avoid this, place the chocolate in a deep metal or heatproof glass bowl and set the bowl in the center of a wide pan filled with hot (but not boiling) water. This method is actually more reliable than using a traditional double boiler, where steam emerges closer to the chocolate and is more like to drip onto it.
For dipping, choose the best quality fruit you can find. Dip the fruit halfway into the chocolate to show off their color and keep the stems of the berries intact for a more dramatic presentation. Carefully let the excess chocolate drip off the fruit after dipping and allow the fruit to set in the refrigerator.
Chocolate-Dipped Fruit - Makes 4 servings.
3 ounces dark (70 percent cocoa) chocolate
8 large strawberries
16 large seedless green grapes
1 large banana, cut into 8 pieces
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or wax paper. Set aside.
Break up the chocolate or chop it. Place in a small microwaveable bowl and heat for 1 minute on high. Stir, then microwave in 10 second bursts on medium until small pieces remain. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Alternatively, place the bowl in a small skillet filled with 2 inches of simmering hot water and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted.
Pat the fruit with paper towels to be sure it is completely dry. Holding each strawberry by its hull, dip halfway into the melted chocolate and lift out with a twisting motion. Shake the berry over the bowl for 10 seconds to let excess chocolate drip off. Place the strawberry on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all the berries are dipped.
Insert a toothpick into the stem end of each grape. Dip grapes until half covered with chocolate, twisting and letting the excess drip off. Lay each grape on its side on the baking sheet.
Stand each banana section on a round end and insert a toothpick in the center of the top. Dip, twist and let excess chocolate drip off, like the other fruit.
Place the baking sheet with the dipped fruits in the refrigerator until the chocolate hardens, 30 minutes. Serve immediately, or within 6 hours.
Per serving: 170 calories, 7 g total fat (4 g saturated fat), 27 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein, 4 g dietary fiber, 0 mg sodium.
"Something Different" is written for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) by Dana Jacobi, author of The Joy of Soy and recipe creator for AICR's Stopping Cancer Before It Starts.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) offers a Nutrition Hotline online at www.aicr.org or via phone 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, MondayFriday, at 1-800-843-8114. This free service allows you to ask questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. A registered dietitian will respond to your email or call, usually within 3 business days. AICR is the only major cancer charity focusing exclusively on how the risk of cancer is reduced by healthy food and nutrition, physical activity and weight management. The Institute’s education programs help millions of Americans lower their cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. Over $82 million in funding has been provided. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.