Sure, it's always handy to have a couple of chocolate frogs or a bar of commercial chocolate in the cupboard. However, if you want this dessert to be special, use something like a belgium coverture chocolate or perhaps a toblerone bar.
The difference between compound and coverture chocolate:
Couverture chocolate is made from what is known as 'chocolate liquor'. This is a blend of cocoa solids, extra cocoa butter, sugar and flavourings, then tempered. To be called "couverture", the percent of cocoa butter must be between 32-39%.
Compound chocolate is made by blending cocoa with vegetable fat instead of cocoa butter. It is able to stand higher temperatures than coverture. Couverture means 'coating' in French, yet strangely enough the chocolate we use for coating is not couverture. We tend to use compound with vegetable oil instead as it's easy to work with, but doesn't have the nice richness of couverture
Making the fondue: If possible, use coverture chocolate, perhaps Lindt or Callebaut (this is what I use), however any chocolate will do in a pinch.
You don't need a fancy fondue dish, you can pick up an oil burner from a $2 shop. Make sure it has a nice wide 'bowl' and that it can be removed from the base easily for cleaning. It is also important it hasn't been used for oil, as the smell will linger and make your chocolate taste funny. Pop your chocolate in with a splash of milk, and then a candle underneath ready to be lit.
Allow the heat to melt the chocolate and warm the milk whilst you chop up some fruit, lollies, marshmallows. You'll be surprised at how little you need to feed a crowd. 2 oranges, an apple and a few marshmallows will serve 6 easily. If cutting up fruit that will brown in the air, like apples, dip them in a bowl of fruit juice first to prevent the browning.
If you have fondue forks, pop them in a glass next to your platter, otherwise use forks or toothpicks. Stir the melted chocolate with a spoon and it will blend with the milk and go thicker. Add more milk or chocolate as desired and enjoy.
If you'd like to go a little flashier, you can purchase or hire a professional chocolate fountain, but a full size large machine may not be necessary. A simple machine that plugs in for the table top will cost around $20-30 at most chain stores. With the smaller fountains, you do need to melt your chocolate before you add it to the machine. Do this in a pot over a double boiler on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Then scoop the melted chocolate into your fountain, turn on and watch it cascade down the fountain. Its a good idea to turn your fountain on to the heat setting a little earlier so it is warm before you add the chocolate.
For that beautiful glassy appearance add a little of olive oil to your melted chocolate. You won't taste it, but your chocolate will be smooth and free flowing.
If you want something a bit more decadent, then give this recipe a try:
Into your fondue pot, add:
Some fine-quality bittersweet chocolate. I wouldn't use more than 64% cacao as it makes it too bitter
1/2 Cup of cream
1 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 Tablespoons of Cognac, Brandy or Liquer
Melt together, stir until blended - definitely not for the kids.
If you're looking for more ideas of what you can dip in your fondue, try some of these:
Small squares of baked goods such as brownies, cake, marshmallows, and biscuits.
Fresh fruit including: strawberries, apple, pear, grapes, bananas.
Dried fruit including: apricots, prunes, chunks of candied ginger.
Frozen fruit: blackberries, raspberries, blueberies
If you choose the basic recipe, this is actually a pretty low calorie dessert. So even if you're watching your weight you can indulge with this one. If you think about it, the bulk of the dessert is fresh fruit, dipped in a coating of chocolate. I've made them using just one freddo frog, a pretty small treat if you think about it, a splash of low fat milk and a plate of fruit.You can savour it for 10-30 minutes, so you really feel like you've had a treat and will be satisfied. For the kids, it's a great way of getting good food like fruit into them, covered with just a little treat.
Whether you make a fondue pot as an afternoon treat for yourself, a centre piece at a kids party or a divine finish to a dinner party, it's cheap, astounding, and always good fun.