Tips for Lovers Who Love Cooking With Chocolate
How to achieve perfect success with your chocolaty confections.
Chocolate stirs the heart like no other ingredient. Who can resist the appeal of chocolate-based desserts? Offering an extraordinary range of flavours, white, milk or dark chocolate can add just the right touch to nearly any recipe – from cookies, bars and candies to mousses, ice creams and fondues. No matter what you choose to make, these simple tips will help you to get the best results when you cook or bake with this noble and heaven-sent substance.
What’s the best way to melt it?
- Using a double boiler method, fill a pot with water and set it on the burner on medium heat. Bring the water to where it's bubbling at a point just below boiling.
- Place the block of chocolate in a large mixing bowl and suspend it over the smaller pot of water. Make sure the bottom of the chocolate pan isn’t touching the water.
- Stir the chocolate continuously with a spatula or a wooden spoon to ensure that it melts evenly. Remove it from the burner as soon as the melting process is complete, to avoid overheating.
How to store chocolate
Chocolate keeps beautifully for several months at room temperature (around 64 °F / 18 °C), as long as it is properly wrapped and protected from humidity and heat. You can also keep it in the refrigerator, or even the freezer, although this might cause the cocoa butter to develop white spots upon its surface. Fortunately, these spots will not affect the taste at all, and will disappear once you melt the chocolate.
Chocolate and dairy products – ways to enjoy them together
Dairy products have always complemented chocolate perfectly, in so many different ways:
- When combined with cream, dark chocolate becomes ganache. Generally made of equal parts cream and chocolate, ganache is used in a wide variety of recipes – i.e. adding rich flavour to truffles, as cake frosting, in tarts, in crepes, and in many other treats. Only the ratio of chocolate to cream will vary in these recipes.
- The combination of chocolate and butter yields fondant, chocolate sauce, or icing – depending upon the type of sugar you use. Creamy chocolate butter is delicious on shortbread cookies, little cakes and many other snacks.
- Melted chocolate also blends beautifully with sour cream or cream cheese, creating a thick, rich garnish that adds a sensational touch to a sponge cake.
How to temper chocolate?
Tempering is a technique that transforms melted chocolate into a hard, lustrous substance that has snap to it. It is a very important part of certain recipes, especially delicate confections like truffles, pralines, chocolate-covered fruits, ganaches and other chocolate bonbons. By manipulating the chocolate’s temperature (melting, cooling and reheating it in the prescribed manner), you can create a glistening substance that does not melt in your hands.
Tempering is a simple process, but it does have certain very precise rules:
- Begin by melting three quarters of the chocolate called for by the recipe.
- Once this is done, bring the temperature up to between 113 and 122 °F (45 to 50 °C), using a digital thermometer to gauge its progress – and remove it from the burner as soon as the desired temperature is reached.
- Now, add the remaining one quarter of the chocolate (this will help to cool it) and reduce the temperature to 80 °F (27 °C).
- Finally, you can reheat it in the double boiler to between 88 and 90 °F (31 or 32 °C) for a few seconds.
Your chocolate should now be ready for use in the most delicate recipes. To make sure that you have been successful, spread a layer of chocolate onto a sheet of aluminum paper. It should harden quickly, have a smooth appearance, snap cleanly and detach easily from the paper.