How to Make a Chocolate Tasting Board

By Ann Fulton

An interactive way to sample a variety of chocolate and see what you like best, a tasting board offers a festively easy dessert for holidays, birthday parties, bridal showers--even a special night for two!
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An interactive way to sample a variety of chocolate and see what you like best, a tasting board offers a festively easy dessert for holidays, birthday parties, bridal showers, potlucks–even a special night for two!

 

Many of us enjoy a sweet treat after dinner. If you’re like me, you’d love to taste everything on a dessert platter without committing to the entire dessert.

A little bite of this and a nibble of that would be ideal, right? A chocolate tasting board is the answer.

The main purpose of a chocolate tasting board is to sample a range of chocolates, from sweet milk chocolate to ultra-dark bitter varieties. Likely, there’s a range in between that hits your sweet spot. (Pardon the pun.)

Chocolates sourced from different countries and with various add-ins may also provide inspiration for a tasting board. More on that to come.

The concept also offers a very easy dessert when entertaining. It stimulates conversation, too, as diners describe various tastes and textures in sometimes insightful, sometimes amusing ways.

Leftovers are never a problem either, as any chocolate that remains may be wrapped back up and eaten over time. I often enjoy a sampling of squares after dinner–no special occasion required!

An interactive way to sample a variety of chocolate and see what you like best, a tasting board offers a festively easy dessert for holidays, birthday parties, bridal showers--even a special night for two!

Countless options exist in grocery stores and specialty stores alike. Inspiration for your dessert board can be found in the percentage of cacao, various add-ins, country of origin, or fun themes. Specific details follow. 

HOW TO CREATE A CHOCOLATE TASTING BOARD

First decide if you want to focus on a specific theme or if you’d simply like to taste a variety of offerings that look intriguing. There is no right or wrong, but the following categories may provide inspiration:

  • Percentage of cacao: Arranging a board on an increasing scale of sweet to bitter offers a fun way to test people’s enjoyment “threshold.” Grocery store chocolate most often falls between 50% and 60% cacao. However, demand for dark chocolate with higher levels of cacao is making it increasingly easy to find chocolate labeled in the 70% to 80% range—and often higher.
  • Country of origin: Another way to create an interesting board is to use chocolate with similar cacao percentages but sourced from different countries. For example, do you notice distinct differences between American chocolate and that which is imported from various countries in Europe, Central and South America, and Mexico? Depending on where you shop, your options in this regard may be abundant or they may be more limited.
  • Different add-ins: What are the most popular or most unique “extras?” It’s easy these days to find chocolate that includes dried fruit (such as apricots, raspberries, figs, tart cherries, candied ginger, and citrus peel), nuts (like almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts), fillings (such as caramel, nut butters, nougat, and marshmallow), as well as herbs and spices (like sea salt, mint, lavender, cinnamon, cardamom, and cayenne pepper). Similarly, grains like crispy quinoa and puffed rice are used in several widely available brands.
 
An interactive way to sample a variety of chocolate and see what you like best, a tasting board offers a festively easy dessert for holidays, birthday parties, bridal showers, potlucks–even a special night for two!

Offering a range from sweet milk chocolate to bitter dark chocolate allows tasters to hone in on their personal “sweet spot.”

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN TASTING

Sure you can simply eat, but talking about the differences from one chocolate to the next adds to the fun. Following are some helpful discussion points:

  • Aroma: Can you smell the cocoa? Do you detect roasted, bitter, floral, or fruity notes?
  • Texture and mouthfeel: Is the chocolate smooth or gritty? Does it melt easily? Does it feel dry or creamy? Similarly, words like dense, crisp, crunchy, chewy, and others may come into play, especially with various add-ins.
  • Taste: How do you describe and compare levels of sweetness, sourness, and bitterness? You can help your guests by offering a “tasting note” vocabulary, including descriptors such as earthy, floral, fudge, creamy, nutty, bitter, berry, citrus, and tannin (which refers to astringent and bitter properties).
  • One last texture note: Good dark chocolate has a clean, crisp snap when broken. Milk and white chocolate have a softer snap thanks to higher amounts of sugar and milk. If you break your chocolate before placing on the board (which I recommend for ease of tasting and limited touching), this may not be a conversation point, but you can consider it when preparing the board and mention it in passing conversation

WHAT TO SERVE ALONGSIDE THE CHOCOLATE?

Few will complain about chocolate alone, although a handful of supporting players will add contrasting flavor, color, and texture. These extras are also a way to inexpensively bolster the board and broaden the appeal when serving a group.

  • Fresh fruit: Strawberries, orange segments, raspberries, blackberries, figs, plums, and pears provide complementary flavor.
  • Dips: Peanut butter is a classic pairing and Nutella is a perennial favorite of kids and adults alike.
  • Cookies or bread: Biscotti, shortbread, and small slices of quick bread pair well with the chocolate. When dips are included, graham crackers, pretzels, vanilla wafers, and Biscoff cookies provide tasty additions.
  • What about cheese? Generally speaking, cheese pairs better with darker varieties of chocolate compared to sweeter milk chocolate. If you’d enjoy a combination board, pairings to try are blue cheese and dark chocolate, brie and a fruity chocolate, and cheddar with a nutty chocolate.
  • Drinks: Depending on the drink and the chocolate variety, you can make a case for almost anything, from Stout beer and a red wine like Shiraz to bourbon and coffee or tea. In terms of palate cleansing, water (especially sparkling water or seltzer) is commonly served when tasting chocolate. Kids might enjoy completing the theme with hot chocolate.
An interactive way to sample a variety of chocolate and see what you like best, a tasting board offers a festively easy dessert for holidays, birthday parties, bridal showers--even a special night for two!

When making a board for kids, it’s fun to choose a variety of items with youthful appeal. But don’t hesitate to include some dark chocolate–oftentimes, young palates are more refined that we may expect! 

An interactive way to sample a variety of chocolate and see what you like best, a tasting board offers a festively easy dessert for holidays, birthday parties, bridal showers, potlucks–even a special night for two!

THEMED BOARDS ARE FUN TOO

Kids birthday parties, bridal and baby showers, and other special occasions can provide inspiration for your tasting board.

  • Create a kid-friendly board by including a variety of milk chocolate, white chocolate, and perhaps one dark chocolate. While kids tend to prefer sweeter milk chocolate, it’s fun to try something bitter—and some kids will likely enjoy it. Nutella and vanilla wafers or graham cracker dippers, chocolate covered pretzels, and strawberries (as is or chocolate-dipped) offer wide appeal.
  • Make a winter wonderland dessert board by incorporating white chocolate, mini marshmallows or marshmallow, yogurt-covered pretzels, white chocolate-dipped strawberries—perhaps even white chocolate chip or mint Milano cookies. Junior Mints and mini peppermint patties work well here too, as does chocolate from Switzerland. (Think skiing in the Swiss Alps!) A toasty mug of hot chocolate will complete the theme.
  • A special dessert board for two is easy to pull together. Three or four varieties of chocolate covering a range of cacao percentages, red raspberries or another fruit of choice, and some chocolate-dusted almonds are all you need to create a bountiful offering. Peanut butter and chocolate are a match made in heaven, so a small bowl for dipping is worth consideration.
  • For Valentine’s Day, New Years, baby showers, etc., think towards holiday specific shapes (like hearts), colors (holiday-themed M&Ms are always popular), and the personal preferences of a particular honoree.
  • Strawberry shortcake, s’mores, peanut butter lovers, and country of origin themes offer unique ideas as well. Let your imagination and tastebuds guide and inspire you. 
An interactive way to sample a variety of chocolate and see what you like best, a tasting board offers a festively easy dessert for holidays, birthday parties, bridal showers--even a special night for two!

There’s no right or wrong way to assemble a crowd-pleasing board. That said, variety in terms of bitterness, add-ins and extra flavorings, and country of origin make for fun conversation as people discuss the nuances of each. 

An interactive way to sample a variety of chocolate and see what you like best, a tasting board offers a festively easy dessert for holidays, birthday parties, bridal showers--even a special night for two!

A dessert board for two on Valentine’s Day is a guaranteed hit, but don’t save it for once a year. This easy dessert idea is a surefire crowd-pleaser for birthdays parties, showers, New Year’s Eve celebrations, and casual get-togethers with friends.   

How to Make a Chocolate Tasting Board
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: As many as needed; plan on several squares of each chocolate, a few candies, and two cookies per person
An interactive way to sample a variety of chocolate and see what you like best, a tasting board offers a fabulous (and easy) dessert for any occasion. For added inspiration including themes, serving tips, and tasting notes, refer to the details in the main post.
Ingredients
  • Bar chocolate – Choose a variety based on percentage of cacao, various flavor additions, or country of origin. White chocolate is fair game too.
  • Candy chocolates – mini peanut butter cups, M&Ms, Kisses, Wilbur Buds (for locals), and chocolate covered caramels offer variety in flavor and shape
  • Dips – Nutella, peanut butter, cookie butter, almond butter, and whipped cream or even marshmallow dip provide ideas for a variety of boards
  • Cookies – Shortbread, biscotti, pretty rolled cookies (like Pirouettes), and homemade chocolate chip cookies will add variety and abundance when serving a larger group.
  • Dippers – Pretzels, Biscoff cookies, vanilla wafers, and graham crackers pair well with a variety of dips. (Pretzels contribute a nice salty note.)
  • Fresh Fruit – Strawberries (chocolate-dipped or plain), raspberries, and mandarin orange segments complement the chocolate and add color to the board.
  • Nuts – Almonds (regular, Marcona, or chocolate dusted), walnuts, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, and even candied nuts are all worthy additions
  • Marshmallows – A fun addition for a s’mores or winter wonderland-themed board
Instructions

For added ease, break some of the chocolate into individual squares. (To start, I break about half of each bar I’m using.) Place any loose items like nuts, dips, and small candies into bowls. Arrange the items over a platter, cutting board, piece of marble, or slate. (Tip: You may arrange clockwise by percentage of cacao or simply make a note as to what each item is—I also keep the wrappers for easy reference

Enjoy!

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An interactive way to sample a variety of chocolate and see what you like best, a tasting board offers a festively easy dessert for holidays, birthday parties, bridal showers--even a special night for two!

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