Spending time with my closest girlfriends over delicious food and drink is one of my favorite ways to relax, unwind, and enjoy their company.
Even though we can stay connected with technology, there’s nothing quite like getting together for a little girls’ night in. Especially when everyone’s schedules are so crazy, it makes this time all the more special!
I’m so happy to be teaming up with Ghirardelli again for more deliciousness in 2018. They recently sent me a care package of their Intense Dark bars and challenged me to find exciting ways to complement the richness of the chocolate with other scrumptious flavors and ingredients.
With the variety of unique flavors in the Intense Dark line, these premium bars are perfect treats all on their own. Yet it’s also fun to find unexpected flavors that pair perfectly with the different bars of chocolate. That’s what takes savoring chocolate to a new level.
I don’t know about you, but heading to the store to put together a tasty spread for your girlfriends is my favorite kind of grocery shopping. Below are some flavor combinations that I love but feel free to experiment with bold and new pairings. The options are endless!
The velvety and deep 72% Cacao Twilight Delight pairs beautifully with a Cabernet Sauvignon, almonds, dried fruit, and cheese such as Spanish Manchego. Be sure to allow any cheese to come to room temperature before serving for best flavor.
Similarly, the 86% Cacao Midnight Reverie pairs well with sweet red wine and macadamia nuts, but also with more unexpected sweet ingredients like fruit jellies, meringue cookies, and even gourmet marshmallows!
The deep flavor of the 86% bar has hints of dark cherries, which I also think go wonderfully with something slightly salty. So keep an eye out for roasted and salted nuts specifically. The bulk bin section of most grocery stores has the best variety and prices for putting together snack options.
By the way, if you’re ever unsure of which wine to purchase when entertaining, try downloading a wine-buying app on your phone. There are several that will allow you to “scan” the wine bottle label in store and return honest flavor ratings from average customers. You can learn more about the notes of the wine and what will pair well.
92% Cacao Moonlight Mystique is actually a new bar in the Intense Dark lineup. It’s one of the darkest bars available but its fruit-forward notes paired beautifully with my orange cheesecakes! Since this bar is so rich and intense, I wanted to keep the pairing simple so the chocolate could really shine.
The Sea Salt Soiree bars feature dark chocolate with slow roasted almonds and sea salt, so we paired it with dried black cherries, Irish cheddar (my favorite!), and popped a few of the cheesecakes alongside. Any flavor that enhances that salty-sweet combination will take your taste buds to a new level of delight.
I’m such a texture person, so it’s important for me to consider that alongside the flavor combinations. The Intense Dark bars tend to be extremely glossy, velvety, and smooth so finding contrasting textures is the key.
Encourage your girlfriends to experiment a little with different flavor combinations. Taking the time to really pay attention to your senses while indulging in a treat makes it all the more pleasurable. Truly noticing how something as simple as a bar of chocolate looks, sounds, and tastes will allow you to be completely present in the moment.
Once everyone has taken Instagram photos of the tasty spread (it is 2018 after all!) I would ask everyone to put their phones in another room so you can truly disconnect and enjoy each other’s company.
Since I know you guys love my mini cheesecake recipes, I created a vibrant yet simple no-bake Mini Orange Cheesecake recipe as a sort of twist on the idea of a classic cheeseboard. It’s way more feminine and sweet, and they’re made ahead of time so they’re perfect for entertaining.
Plus I just adore the flavor combination of dark chocolate + orange! When it comes to putting together snack spreads like this, I usually try to make at least one thing from scratch.
For these adorable cheesecakes I used my favorite mini cheesecake pan to make them perfectly bite-sized.
If you don’t have a mini cheesecake pan, no worries! You could use a standard muffin tin. Just be sure to line it with paper or foil liners. Another super cute idea is to use mini mason jars to assemble and serve this recipe in. Just note that you might end up with less than 12 cheesecakes.
If you make your throw your own Girls Night In party, be sure to snap a picture and tag me @handletheheat and @ghirardelli on Instagram so we can see your creations.
For the crust:
sleeve (9 crackers, 140 grams) graham crackers
(57 grams) unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
(340 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
(100 grams) granulated sugar
(180 grams) heavy cream
Zest of 1 orange
For the topping:
Orange slices, for garnish
For the crust:
Thoroughly grease a mini cheesecake pan
. Place the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add in the melted butter and pulse until moistened. Divide the mixture among the cavities of the cheesecake pan, about 1 heaping tablespoon in each. Firmly press into the bottom of each cavity (a shot glass or other small object makes easy work of this). Set aside.
For the cheesecake:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until creamy and well combined. Add in the cream and zest and continue beating until well combined and thickened. Divide the mixture among each cavity and cover with plastic wrap.
Chill until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight. The cheesecake can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
For the topping:
Top each cheesecake with a dollop of the marmalade. Garnish each with an orange slice. Serve.