Cold weather revs up our appetite and puts us in the mood for something sweet. Inevitably our favourite ingredient – chocolate – can feel like a flavoured cuddle on a wintry day, a little overindulgence, a shelter in bad times, or an experience to share with family and friends.

We’ve already described how chocolate can be perfect not only in sweet recipes but also for a creamy sauce to dress your tagliatelle or even paired with meat. What other flavours can create a weird but delicious pairing with chocolate? Here are some ideas:

1) Chocolate and salt: Refined palates cannot resist this combination! Choose from fleur de sel (a salt that forms as a thin, delicate crust on the surface of seawater as it evaporates) or Himalaya salt to give a little twist to your sweet preparations, a crunchy touch that enriches your chocolate tasting pleasure. Just add small amount of salt to your melted chocolate, to create unusual and delicious home-made pralines.

At Vanini we knows this pairing well: among our bars you’ll find the Milk 49% with Trapani salt.

2) Chocolate and cornmeal mush: Cornmeal flour is the main ingredient for several traditional sweet recipes. Any ideas? Small cornmeal mush pralines covered with dark chocolate. The full recipe? Easy! Just melt some instant cornmeal mush with hot milk, then combine with some butter until you obtain a slightly firm consistency. Now, add some sugar and ground almonds, form into small balls and cover with melted chocolate. Let them rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes so that the chocolate is well-set.

3) Chocolate and balsamic vinegar: As a reduction or glaze, the pairing “balsamic vinegar – chocolate” is really interesting. It is perfect for cakes with red fruits, such as strawberries and raspberries, but also for apple and chocolate pies. For a last-minute dessert, serve 70% dark chocolate with a 30 year old Balsamic Vinegar.

4) Chocolate and avocado: Have you ever heard about a cake prepared with these two ingredients? A strange pairing but appropriate and light. Avocado has extraordinary qualities and, thanks to its buttery consistency, it is a perfect replacement for any kind of fat traditionally used for cakes and sweets recipes. Curious? Preheat your oven  to 180°C.

Weight out the following ingredients: flour 150g, cocoa powder 4 tablespoons, baking powder 16g, can sugar 150g, chocolate drops 50g, yoghurt 125g, milk 100ml, half a ripe avocado, vanillin 1 envelope. To make the cake, mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl and the other ingredients in a second bowl. Combine the two and stir well until mixture is soft and uniform. Place into a baking tin and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

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