Chocolate for Lovers
Posted: Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Commonly given as a gift, especially at holidays (most notably Valentine's Day), chocolate is considered synonymous with love. If you love chocolate, you're in luck. These cocoa-licious original recipes are perfect for sharing with someone special. Even if the object of your affection is chocolate itself, you're in luck – because whether you like your chocolate hot, cold, chewy or gooey, you're sure to find a recipe here that'll satisfy any craving.
Chocolate Facts and Tips
Types of Chocolate
- Unsweetened Chocolate - This is pure chocolate liquor that has been cooled and formed into bars. It is the traditional choice for recipes in which a bold hit of chocolate flavor is more important than a smooth or delicate texture. You can't go wrong with Scharffen Berger.
- Cocoa Powder - Chocolate liquor is pressed to remove all but 10–24% of the cocoa butter, making this the healthiest form of chocolate. Because of its acidic flavor, the powder is sometimes treated with an alkaline solution in order to improve the taste, a method known as "Dutch processing." Cocoa powder contributes a lot of chocolate flavor without a lot of fat, making it perfect for hot beverages or recipes that already have plenty of butter.
- White Chocolate - Because it contains no cocoa solids, it is technically not chocolate at all. It must contain at least 20% cocoa butter, and contributes mild flavors of milk, sugar and vanilla.
- White Chocolate Chips - To really be called white chips, they must contain cocoa butter, although some brands use palm oil instead. Choose a brand that has the most fat, such as Guittard, for their softer texture.
- Milk Chocolate - Milk chocolate must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor and 12% milk solids. Because of its relatively weak chocolate flavor, it isn't used as much in recipes, but rather for eating out of hand. We love Perugina Milk Chocolate bars.
- Sweet Chocolate - Think milk chocolate without the milk. It must contain at least 15% chocolate liquor, and is often more than 60% sugar. This variety of chocolate is sold by Baker's Chocolate Company as German's Sweet Chocolate.
- Bittersweet/Semisweet Chocolate - This variety must contain 35% chocolate liquor, though most contain anywhere from 50% to 70% or more. It has a smooth texture when melted, and is best used for sauces, frostings, custards and icings. Ghirardelli bittersweet is a good bet.
- Chocolate Chips - All are made with semisweet or bittersweet chocolate with a slightly lower fat content to improve the chips' stability. They are not recommended for chocolate sauces, but are acceptable in a brownie recipe. Guittard Semisweet Chocolate Chips or Nestle Semisweet Chocolate Chunks are both great choices.
Chocolate Handling Tips
- A two-tined meat fork is great for breaking chocolate into smaller pieces to speed up melting.
- The microwave is a quick way to melt chocolate. Heat 4-6 ounces of chocolate on 50% power for 3 min., stirring once or twice.
- Keep utensils and bowls completely dry when melting chocolate. A single drop of water or steam can make chocolate seize or become grainy. Even a double boiler can splatter into chocolate and ruin it. Remedy: Add butter or warm water 1 tablespoon at a time until it can be whisked back to its smooth sheen.
- Never refrigerate or freeze chocolate. Wrap it tightly in plastic and store in a cool, dry place. Rapid changes in humidity or temperature will cause a harmless bloom (white powder) to form on the surface. Milk and white chocolate will keep for 6-12 months, while dark chocolate keeps for several years.
- To make easy chocolate curls, warm a large piece of chocolate in the microwave at 30% power for 30 seconds to 1 minute. For long curls, use a vegetable peeler and drag it along the surface of the chocolate. Lift with a toothpick and place on top of desserts as a garnish.
- For a chocolate drizzle, place chocolate chips in a zipper-closure food storage bag; seal bag. Microwave at 50% power until chips melt, checking every 30 seconds. Gently squeeze bag; make a small cut in corner of bag. Pipe out onto dessert.
Tempering chocolate creates a smooth, hard, glossy finish on foods that are dipped into the chocolate. It is done by heating and cooling the chocolate to the proper temperatures:
- Dark chocolate – Heat to 110°; lower temperature to 89°
- Milk chocolate – Heat to 105°; lower temperature to 87°
- White chocolate – Heat to 105°; lower temperature to 81°
Follow these steps for perfectly tempered chocolate:
- Chop chocolate into small pieces of similar size.
- Heat 3/4 of the total amount of chocolate called for in the microwave until melted, stirring every 30 seconds.
- When chocolate starts to melt overall, start measuring temperature until it reaches the appropriate temperature for the type of chocolate (see times above).
- Remove bowl from microwave; vigorously stir in remaining 1/4 of chocolate checking temperature until it lowers to tempering range based on type of chocolate used (see temps. above).
- Test proper tempering by coating the back of a spoon and allowing it to dry. Tempered chocolate should begin to dry and set in 3–5 minutes.
- Dip food; place on a sheet of parchment paper to cool. If melted chocolate hardens, place back in microwave for 3–4 minutes.