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Chocolate fountain - need advice on dippers!

I'm planning on using a chocolate fountain for the first time for my New Year's Eve party, since I looove chocolate and think it'll be really festive. After scouring these boards and others I've narrowed it down to the list below. Can anyone share experiences/opinions on my list, and whether it's worth the time to make some of the baked goods myself as opposed to buying them?

My top contenders are:
1) strawberries - probably a given, and would go well w/ champagne
2) marshmallows - another easy choice due to no prep needed
3) pound cake - I can make a pretty good pound cake, but if I'm going to dip it in chocolate anyway, is it worth it to make it from scratch or should I just get a store-bought one (Sara Lee?). What works better, pound cake or angel food cake?
4) chocolate cake/brownie bites - Should I make my own chocolate cake (I can make ahead my recipe and freeze it), or just buy some brownie bites (they're pretty cheap at Costco for a large package)
5) cream puffs - I loved this at a previous party with a chocolate fountain. These seem way too complicated to make from scratch, I think you can buy these frozen?
6) Also considering: pretzels, shortbread cookies, biscotti, madeleine cookies, pretzels (all store-bought).

Since I'm also making a couple other desserts and a bunch of appetizers, I'm even wondering whether I should go with all store-bought items to save time (I only have a couple days to prepare before the party).

Any other suggestions are welcome, but I don't think I want anything too sweet (rice krispies treats, donut holes) since this is an adult party and most of my friends aren't into super-sweet stuff (using dark chocolate for the fountain itself). I'm having around 30 people over, so I'm guessing maybe I shouldn't go beyond 4-5 different dipping items?

Thanks all for your kind advice.

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  1. Being that I'm a chocoholic, I'd love to be at that party (lol); if you have recipes that you feel are tops flavor wise, I'd make them..pound cake freezes well so you can make it ahead. Angel food cake is also a good choice; it's lighter and less calories...cream puffs are not hard to make. Check out Ina Garten's recipe on Food Network. You squeeze them out of a pastry bag onto a baking sheet and bake.

    I make chocolate covered pretzels so that would be on my list for the salty aspect...I might not serve the brownie bites only because I'd be looking for contrasting flavors & textures and if you're narrowing it down and already the dip is chocolate, I'd give up brownies for something else.

    Consider dried fruit like banana or apple chips, mango etc. as a dipper...

    1. My mom is a caterer and features chocolate fountains quite often. They are a lot of fun and a great "interactive" dessert that everyone enjoys.

      You've definitely honed in on the most popular dippers. Strawberries are always the most popular, followed by cream puffs.

      You can buy very decent cream puffs from Costco or Sam's Club. They come frozen , packed in a plastic tub. I believe they are imported from Belgium. For this purpose, they are perfect, and there's no point in making your own (sorry if there are purists that don't agree, but I do have a high standard of taste).

      The same for the Sara Lee pound cake - it's very good and a great timesaver.

      Marshmallows are great, but, to my taste, chocolate cake or brownies don't excite me as a dipper. Not enough flavor or color contrast.

      Pretzels are a must for the salty contrast. The best shape to use are short pretzel rods.

      Biscotti or shortbread could also be nice (I'd do shortbread fingers). I'm very fond of dried apricots too. But four or five dippers should be enough.

      Short wooden skewers are perfect for spearing the softer items. You can find these easily in Asian markets or even in a well-stocked supermarket.

      Good luck, and I'm sure this will be lots of fun for your guests. Happy New Year!

      1. In the past, I always enjoyed fresh fruit for dipping in fountains....

        green apples
        orange sections

        1 Reply
        1. re: fourunder

          I agree, fruit is my fave vehicle for chocolate dipping

          I'd add mandarin sections (since they're seedless) and rice krispie treats

        2. Another vote here for pretzels, arlenemae.

          Also, what about something like whole shelled walnuts or brazil nuts?

          The classic peanut butter/chocolate combination occurred to me. If it interests you, maybe you could get some store-bought PB cookies and break them into appropriate sized pieces. If you think that's too sweet or child-like, you could also get something like a gingersnap.

          Madeleines would be great, in my mind. Though I love, love, LOVE shortbread, if you're worried about the sweetness factor, I'd be careful about that.

          Dried cranberries are wonderful with chocolate, and tart enough for adults, but I can't figure out a way to manage such tiny things, logistically, in this application here...unless you can find some cranberry loaf bread or a plain cranberry cake.

          And I agree with fourunder. I've always enjoyed pineapple sections with chocolate fondue.

          1. I'd add graham crackers to the mix... people can have choc-covered marshmallows, choc-covered graham crackers or... s'mores!

            florentine cookies are lovely dipped in chocolate, and as long as you're buying, how about Jo-Joe's from Trader Joe's - vanilla, choc/vanilla, and peppermint

            Candied ginger peel

            1. I have a chocolate fountain and most of what I sever are already listed here. I would only add banana bread and cherry loaf were popular. Oh, and I usually make a rum cake (the cake mix, pudding mix, rum soaked kind) as well.

              When I used it last Christmas and people were taking every sort of cookie/square from the tray of Christmas baking and trying it out with much excitement (nanaimo bars, cheesecake brownies, shortbread, macaroons, millionaire bars, etc).

              And strawberries aren't the only berry...I used fat raspberries, blackberries and domestic blueberries.

              I don't use the recipe that comes with the fountain for my chocolate (chocolate and oil, ugh). I make ganache with cream, thin it with amaretto and then use a small amount of oil if necessary.

              1. We did a chocolate fountain for 250 (catered) at our daughter's Bat Mitzvah. The caterer made small kabobs of fruit (kiwi, pineapple, strawverries, etc) so that it would be less dipping time and more "bang for the buck". Pretzels were a HUGE hit, we used short rods. Another big hit was mandel bread, similar to biscotti in different flavors. Have fun!

                1. Cheesecake squares and rice krispie treats!

                  1. Thanks for all the replies! I'm not big on the fruit/chocolate combo, but some of my other guests probably will so I think I will add another fruit. I'm also following your advice to nix the brownies/chocolate cake and add pretzels (makes it much easier too)!

                    My final list...
                    1) strawberries and other fruit (will decide later what kind)
                    2) marshmallows
                    3) pound cake - will buy store-bought
                    4) pretzels - for salty contrast
                    5) cream puffs - will buy frozen ones

                    Since all these items can pretty much be bought, it should save me a lot of time to concentrate on other desserts and appetizers.

                    Thank you all!

                    1. This might be a bit late. My SIL did the chocolate fountain but she did a couple things I haven't seen yet. She skewered the marshmallows ahead of time and toasted them, in the oven on a Silpat. They were good even cold, the toasty crunch just ads something. Also she put out toppings to dip in, a bit messy but great! She put out crushed-salted peanuts, crushed -chillied pecans, toasted coconut, crushed Oreos and crushed Grahams. It was a lot of fun to play with and delicious.

                      1. With regard to the things like Rice Crispy Treats, Crackers, Pretzels -- What do you use to dip these? Skewers or toothpicks will shatter these things, so it would seem you need some kind of tongs, unless you want people dipping their fingers into the fondue pot. We're having a party with 50-80 people, so I would like to be a bit more sanitary than that.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Hoc

                          Party supply stores sell long plastic skewers, long toothpicks and plastic fondue pot forks to use for just this purpose. Most party supply stores that rent chocolate fountains, also sell the tools needed for your guests. The plastics work great.

                          I just enjoyed a strawberry-chocolate fountain at a bridal party event and the fountain itself was a hard shell chocolate multi layered cone with a battery operated fountain inside it. All of the dippings were fresh fruit. And herb sticks were used as skewers.