Making the Ultimate Dessert Charcuterie Board with Raaka Chocolate
The holiday season is synonymous with sweets: butter cookies and pecan pie, hot cocoa and candy canes. From the moment we unwrap our first Halloween treat in October, the rest of the year can easily spiral into sugar-fueled oblivion. But one Rockefeller Center chocolate shop is doing it differently — without sacrificing any of the holiday cheer.
Raaka is an artisanal chocolate brand known for its vegan dark chocolate made with unroasted cacao beans. “We celebrate the naturally occurring flavors of cacao, which are just as diverse and nuanced as, say, wine or coffee,” says Abbe Lentz, Raaka’s recipe editor. “Unroasted chocolate has a complex flavor that goes beyond ‘chocolate-y’... with unroasted beans you get flavors like fruity, floral, earthy — all different depending on the terroir of the region, particular variety, and growing practices.”
It’s of utmost importance to the Raaka team that they provide their customers with the highest quality cacao, sourced from small producers who use sustainable farming and ethical labor practices. And their Rockefeller Center shop is where they get to interact with these customers and see the benefits of their conscientious work firsthand. “Our factory is tucked away in Red Hook, so we're kind of set away from all of the excitement of day-to-day city life, especially during the holidays,” Lentz said. “It’s our customers [who] bring us joy, so we're excited to share in that joy every day at Rockefeller Center.”
To prove that serious, sustainable chocolate making can still be festive and fun, we teamed up with Raaka to put together the ultimate dessert charcuterie board — a creative spin on everyone’s favorite party platter.
Why move charcuterie to the dessert course?
Abbe Lentz: Everyone loves to snack. Everyone loves variety. It makes so much sense to let everyone curate their own dessert experience! It makes dessert more fun, but also lighter, which is more ideal after a big holiday feast.
What are some key ingredients in a dessert charcuterie board?
AL: Chocolate, of course, fresh and dried fruits, some crunchy things like crackers and cookies, a spread or dip, and something borderline savory to keep it all balanced.
What are some of the more inventive items you like to add?
AL: Something we love about chocolate, especially unroasted cacao, is how versatile it is when it comes to pairings and recipes. We love making crackers with cacao powder for instance. Pair each fruit you have on the board with a different flavor of chocolate. Homemade truffles are super easy, and you can adapt our simple base recipe to be any flavor you want. See recipe below.
How do you balance the flavors and keep a dessert charcuterie from being too sweet?
AL: Luckily, that’s easy with dark chocolate, especially with higher percentages. We go up to 100%. Adding plain or herbed crackers and nut cheeses — spreads or a cheese wheel (steer clear of garlic or scallion!) is an easy way to create balance — the cheese itself is totally savory and will pair perfectly with chocolate and fruit. Another option is making an herby yogurt dip. Thick yogurt, a little maple syrup, and some herbs (we like using thyme or mint).
How would you make this appeal to a guest who is "not a dessert person?"
AL: A cracker, nut cheeses, and a bit of jam or dried fruit is just sweet enough while not necessarily being dessert. Often, people who aren't dessert people might think the perfect nightcap is a small piece of dark chocolate. A simple piece of high-quality dark chocolate alongside a cocktail or glass of wine is the after-dinner treat anyone can get on board with.
What are some of the best items to add for sharing at a large party?
AL: Our baking chocolate coins and minis are the perfect sized chocolates to share with a crowd!
How do you get the board presentation just right?
AL: Lots of colors, keep it abundant, creative patterns, and garnishing with herbs and botanicals! Have fun with it and your efforts will show in the end product.
What wine or cocktail would you pair with this board?
AL: For a wine, we'd pair it with a Tempranillo. Cocktail-wise, a Negroni Noir. This is a cocktail crafted by Brookly-based distillery Halftone Spirits using their Wavelength: Noir gin. It’s a black gin that we collaborated on — it’s aged over our cacao nibs! It’s the perfect balance of botanicals, spice, fruitiness and chocolate. It hints at sweetness without feeling like a confection. We think it’s the perfect dessert cocktail.
Any tips for entertaining during the holidays if you're not much of a chef?
AL: Supporting local food folks! The beauty of living in New York City is that there are so many small food businesses, now more than ever, who are doing really creative and fun things. Head to your local farmer’s market and pick up everything you need — cheeses, breads, meats, baked goods, fresh vegetables, and fruits. The farmers market is such a source of inspiration and abundance, you'll be able to come up with something super simple and delicious. We love going to Sahadi’s as well to stock up on delicious prepared foods when hosting a gathering — hummus, olives, stuffed grape leaves — everyone loves those!
What are some fun ways to decorate a holiday table with chocolate?
AL: A mini chocolate bar for guests at each place setting! Chocolate-dipped fruits are beautiful as well; we love to dip medjool dates and dried figs in chocolate. Chocolate-dipped dried orange slices would be super festive. Add a sprinkle of flaky salt before the chocolate sets — perfection.
Raaka's Spiced Chocolate Truffles
- 8 oz Raaka Classic Dark Baking Chocolate
- 1 can (5.4 oz) coconut cream
- 1/4 cup olive oil (Brightland is our favorite!)
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- Optional: 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1/4 cup Raaka Cacao Powder
- ⅓ cup turbinado sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- In a double boiler, on medium-low, slowly melt and infuse coconut cream, olive oil, and spices for 10 minutes. Whisk vigorously to emulsify the fats. Remove from heat and whisk chocolate in continuously until completely melted and glossy.
- Pour into a wide dish, cover and chill in the refrigerator for a few hours until firm.
- Using a tablespoon, scoop truffle mixture and roll into balls.
- Mix together sugar, cinnamon, and cacao powder. Roll truffles in mixture to fully coat.
- Store in the fridge until serving time. Enjoy!
Pick up something sweet at Raaka on the concourse level of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The shop is open Monday through Friday 11 am to 7 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm.