Fondue might strike you as dated, a relic of 1970s dinner parties and après ski buffets at cozy chalets. In fact this simple dish—in which cubes of bread are dipped into a pot of melted cheese—is a Swiss tradition. Its origins date back to the 18th century and in 1930 the Cheese Union of Switzerland declared it the country’s national dish.
Fondue took a sweet turn in the 1960s when a Swiss restaurateur named Konrad Egli swapped chocolate for cheese at his New York City restaurant, Chalet Suisse. Egli’s fondue was a mixture of heavy cream, Toblerone and kirsch served alongside petite walnut pastries and slices of Mandarin oranges. Pastry chefs have been playing with the dish ever since, and we’re not complaining. Rachel Thebault, owner of Tribeca Treats in New York City, uses Nutella in her fondue while Caroline Yeh of Temper Chocolates in Boston adds warming spices like cinnamon, clove, and ginger.
Don’t shy away from making this easy, elegant dessert at home. Chocolate fondue is ideal for dinner parties; besides being fun and interactive for guests, it’s a snap to assemble and easy to scale for a crowd. Making Spanish food? Try chef Andrew Zimmerman’s recipe for crunchy, cinnamon-dusted churros dunked in a pot of hot chocolate. Having a cocktail party? Follow our recipe from Kansas City Chocolatier Christopher Elbow and add a nip of whiskey to the melted chocolate. Serve the fondue with a plate of cut fruit, cookies, and pound cake and let guests choose what to dip.
Remember, the key to good fondue is using quality ingredients, particularly when it comes to choosing the chocolate. You can prepare most versions up to four days ahead of time; when you’re ready to eat, just reheat the chocolate mixture over low heat.