A chocolate fountain is a device for serving chocolate fondue. Typical examples resemble a stepped cone, standing 2–4 feet tall with a crown at the top and stacked tiers over a basin at the bottom. The basin is heated to keep the chocolate in a liquid state so it can be pulled into a center cylinder then vertically transported to the top of the fountain by an Archimedes screw. From there it flows over the tiers creating a chocolate “waterfall” in which food items like strawberries or marshmallows can be dipped.
Melted chocolate is very temperamental, so rich couverture chocolate, which is high in cocoa butter, is commonly used to ensure consistent flow. If the cocoa butter content of the chocolate is too low, an additive must be mixed in to decrease viscosity. (Vegetable oil is most commonly used to do this.) But even couverture chocolate—unless specifically designed for fountains—often still requires an additive to make it flow smoothly. Because of this, it is highly recommended that chocolate formulated specifically for fountains be used to avoid the need for the addition of vegetable oil, as the oil gives a slimy, gritty taste and texture to the chocolate. Few chocolate fountains are capable of melting chocolate directly in the basin, so chocolate is typically melted in a microwave or double boiler before pouring it into the fountain.
A cheaper alternative to couverture chocolate is chocolate-flavored syrup, also called “chocolate coating”. Chocolate coating is already in liquid form and costs much less than couverture chocolate – although many would argue that the extra expense of gourmet Belgian couverture chocolate is more than worth it. Another alternative is to use dark chocolate, such as 70% cocoa chocolate. This contains much less sugar, so it isn’t so sticky; a small quantity of hot water may be added to thin it further.
Coming soon – a directory of suppliers of chocolate fountains in South Africa