Americans first enjoyed fondue of the Swiss variety, which is the classic cheese fondue served with crusty bread. The French name fondue is derived from the verb "fondre," which means "to melt" or "to dissolve." In the 1950s, Swiss cheese fondue became extremely popular in the United States, giving rise to "fondue parties" and the making and selling of fondue pots, plates, and cooking and serving utensils. The popularity of fondue inspired variations on this basic recipe and that is where the history of chocolate fondue begins.
The exact origin of chocolate fondue is not known. Credit has been given to Chef Konrad Elgi of New York's Chalet Swiss restaurant who, in 1952, created the bourguignon variation of fondue (beef cubes cooked in hot oil) and, in 1964, it is said that he subsequently developed the chocolate variation as a dessert fondue. Credit has also been given to the Madison Avenue marketing efforts on behalf of Toblerone Swiss Chocolate in the 1950s. The Mayans could also claim credit for inventing chocolate fondue, since chocolate was first served in their pots as a thick, dense drink over 2,500 years ago.
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How to Make Chocolate Fondue
Chocolate fondue recipes are plentiful and varied. But the basic chocolate fondue recipe remains:
12 oz. good quality milk chocolate ½ cup heavy cream 2 tbsp. brandy or other liqueur (optional)
Method: Melt the chocolate, heavy cream and the brandy in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until all of the ingredients are blended and the mixture is smooth and velvety. Simmer on low heat for a few minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Remove the pot from the flame and pour into a fondue pot or other serving dish.
Serve the fondue with cut-up fruit such as bananas or strawberries, orange wedges, and cubes of angel food cake. The fruit and cake are dipped into the fondue using forks or long toothpicks.
Using the best-quality chocolate you can afford is the best way to enjoy the simplicity of chocolate fondue. While often made with milk chocolate, choose any preferred variety: dark chocolate, white chocolate or flavored. Brands with a minimum of paraffin and processing will produce the most flavorful fondue.
Dipping items for chocolate fondue are limited only by creativity. Cookies, pretzels, nuts, marshmallows, firm cakes, fruits, candies and brownies are all delicious with the classic chocolate fondue. To vary the fondue recipe, use white chocolate instead of milk chocolate, dark chocolate, caramel, coconut, peanut butter and any variety of liqueurs. The basic recipe is flexible with the important technique being the constant stirring of the chocolate to ensure a smooth texture. Uneven or extreme heating can cause the chocolate to burn or curdle.
Chocolate fondue is an excellent choice for dessert when hosting a party. The communal aspect of "sharing" a dessert in such a leisurely fashion is an aid to the host of an event. Fondue pots and utensils are readily available in department or cookware stores.
For larger crowds or special occasions, chocolate fondue is often served using a "chocolate fountain," making it a special centerpiece for a party. These fountains are available for rental or for home purchase.