Do you like to cook with chocolate?
My problem is I also like eating the results…. even the less than perfect results (or would that be especially?)
Sometimes, I exceed my expectations, like with these brownies.
And they really are the Absolute Best Brownies
Five things you need to know when you’re cooking with chocolate
It may be known as the food of the gods but chocolate can be a devil in the kitchen. Many home bakers are intimated by the dos and don’ts associated with cooking chocolate. Admittedly it can be a temperamental ingredient, but get to know chocolate a little better and you can help your next cake or ganache achieve its true potential. Here are a few key points to consider when faced with your next chocolate recipe.
Choose the right kind
If you want the best out of your chocolate dessert, it’s all about the cocoa solids. Try to pick chocolate that contains a high amount of cocoa solids – usually 70% or more such as this dark chocolate bar from Thorntons. A high percentage of cocoa solids not only means more flavour, but also that the chocolate will able to stand up to higher temperatures.
Milk chocolate has fewer cocoa solids and white chocolate doesn’t have any. This is why they both need a little more care when they are being melted as they can burn easily.
Melt it right
Heating chocolate can be tricky and the most important thing is to regulate the temperature. Overheated chocolate can burn and split. Heating chocolate directly over a pan is out of the question, so the alternatives are either using a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl which is placed over a saucepan of simmering water.
This mild and indirect heat is the best way to melt the chocolate. Just remember that even a few drops of water can turn the chocolate into a hardened and grainy mass, so make sure that the bottom of the bowl stays dry. It’s also important that the water is hot but not boiling.
Make sure the chocolate is chopped before adding to the bowl as this will help it to melt quickly and uniformly. Milk or white chocolate blocks may need to be chopped finely as they can burn easily, dark chocolate on the other hand can be cut into slightly bigger pieces. Make sure you stir the chocolate continuously and remove from the heat when it has completely melted.
There comes a time in every amateur chef’s life when the opportunity to dip things in chocolate sauce presents itself. This is when the skill of tempering chocolate comes in handy. Tempering is the method of heating and cooling chocolate to give it a shiny gloss and firm texture.
You can temper chocolate in many ways, but the most simple is to use a double boiler. Start by chopping the required quantity of chocolate. Take two-thirds of this amount and gently heat it in a double boiler. Make sure the water is hot but not boiling and stir the chocolate continuously until the temperature reaches 110-115 degrees F.
Put the top pan of the double boiler on a towel and cool it to 95-100 degrees F. Now add the remaining chopped chocolate to the pan and stir it in until it has melted. The tempered chocolate can now be used for coating, dipping or moulding.
Make it look pretty
There’s nothing like a deliciously moist chocolate sponge sprinkled with chocolate shavings for that special touch. And it’s really easy to get the desired effect. Simply peel a chocolate block with a vegetable peeler. If you warm the chocolate slightly by rubbing it in your hands, you can get larger shavings.
Another popular way of decorating with chocolate is to simply use a grater. Make sure that the chocolate is cool and firm first and be sure to clean the grater as you go along so that it doesn’t get blocked.
The best way to store your chocolate is in a dry, air tight container at a room temperature of around 60 degrees F. An increase in temperature can cause the cocoa butter to separate and create a whitish film on the chocolate, often known as ‘the bloom’. Although this isn’t harmful, it can reduce the flavour and texture of the chocolate.