It’s something we love, crave and simply can’t resist.
This delicious ‘food’ has been around for centuries, originally as a hot beverage. In its first instance the beverage was not sweetened but then the Europeans sweetened and lightened the drink with milk. In the 19th Century, John Cadbury developed an emulsifying process which created the common modern chocolate bar. And the rest, as they say, is definitely history!
The chocolate itself comes from a bean that is fermented, sun dried and roasted. It is then ground. This grinding process is very important – it liquefies the cocoa. During this stage, the precious cocoa butter (which is the fat that gives that lovely “mouth feel” and determines the quality of the chocolate) can be removed as required. This liquefying process results in a thick, dark and bitter mixture known as cocoa ‘liquor’. It is an incredibly specialised process.
Good chocolate is really all about the cocoa butter (or the ‘fat’ if you like) and the cocoa ‘liquor’ – the ingredients that give the colour and ‘bitterness’ and determine the quality of the chocolate. The higher the amounts of cocoa butter the higher the quality and the more “bitterness”, thus creating a good, dark, bitter chocolate.
The chocolate line up:
Whenever possible I choose a good couverture chocolate – a superior quality chocolate with a minimum of 32% cocoa butter. It has a rich flavour and superior sheen. I will also use good quality cooking chocolate (labelled as cooking chocolate and better qualities always advise the amount of cocoa solids as a percentage). A good quality eating chocolate is a great option too. It too, should always have the cocoa solids percentage listed on the front of the label.
So what do I personally prefer? My preferred chocolate types are Callebaut, Valrhona and then Lindt. (I will normally purchase these from specialty food stores.) From the supermarket I will choose a good quality, dark, cooking chocolate in the Lindt or Plaistowe brands. Otherwise a good, dark, eating coverture chocolate works well.
Contains between 50-90% cocoa liquor which gives it a rich, dark flavour.
The higher the liquor the lower the sweetness. If there is sweetness it has been added. You will find labels saying bitter or semi sweet. The higher the fat (cocoa butter), the better the chocolate ‘melts’ in your mouth.
It contains both cocoa butter and cocoa liquor, with milk solids and often emulsifiers. There should be a minimum of 25% cocoa solids and it is sweeter than dark chocolate.
Technically speaking it is not a chocolate at all, but usually called it! The white ‘coverture’ should have a minimum of 32% cocoa butter.
Labelled as Compound Chocolate, it is cheaper to purchase and has vegetable oils added in place of much of the cocoa butter. It is easier to cook with and melt, but does not have the intensity of flavour or wonderful aroma of a coverture chocolate.
Ok so now we know a little bit about ‘chocolate’ here are some tips on storage, melting and tempering.
- Store chocolate in a cool, dark place and always, always covered.
- Don’t freeze or refrigerate as this causes it to ‘bloom’. This is the white, grey look that can occur on the chocolate. Chocolate doesn’t like high or low temperatures.
- In summer you can ‘chill’ the chocolate, for a short time, in the refrigerator before chopping or grating. Grating? Yes, it’s perfect to grate the chocolate before melting it gently.
Melting: Gentle is the word!
I hate to say it as I know many love to zap the chocolate in the microwave – but it’s much better not to. The old fashioned way is best! But if you MUST use the microwave, use 50% power only and short 20 second bursts. Be patient and gentle and melt it slowly.
But this is the best way…..try it!
The best melting method:
- Place the grated or finely chopped chocolate (you can do this quickly in a food processor if you like), into a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
- Now make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl (as it will get far too hot). Usually only fill the saucepan around ¼ full.
- Take care to not let any water or steam at all touch the chocolate. It’s surprising how quickly the chocolate will begin to soften.
- Gently stir the chocolate until it melts and is glossy and smooth.
All completely clean and dry – no moisture! For best results use a silicon spatula or metal spoon. No wooden spoons, they absorb moisture and hold other flavours (curry in your chocolate – yuk!).
This is the name of the process of ensuring that chocolate will reset to a beautiful sheen and ‘snap’ when it cools. It’s a gentle melting and cooling process. You only need to temper chocolate if you want it to reset (with a beautiful gloss, sheen and ‘snap’). Without tempering it simply will not set and may have a white cloudy look, known as “blooming”.
The quick and easy tempering method: You’ll need a sugar thermometer.
- Start with about 300g coverture chocolate, grate or chop it into small pieces.
- Add about ¾ of the chocolate to a heatproof bowl. Place it over simmering water (as above), stir gently.
- The chocolate must NOT exceed 45 degrees C for dark or 40 degrees C for milk and white chocolate.
- Take care not to exceed this temperature as you will need to cool the chocolate and start again! The process must be gentle.
- So gently melt ¾ of the grated chocolate over ‘just simmering’ water, stirring gently. When the thermometer reaches 40 degrees C, remove the bowl from the heat.
- Stir in half of the reserved chocolate and keep stirring, then add the remaining chocolate and stir this in. The temperature will fall to 30 – 32 degrees C (for dark), 29- 31 degrees C (for milk or white). It’s now ready….
- The bowl can be popped back onto the just warm water to maintain the now correct working temperature …. Be aware however that if the temperature exceeds 32 degrees C at anytime, you need to start the process again! Be patient and keep it gentle.
So what to do with all this beautiful melted chocolate? Hmmmmmm…..welll let’s see….
Dip plump strawberries into it! Make chocolate baskets! Create chocolate sauces! And use it in all your favourite recipes.
Here are a few of mine, created especially for KitchenAid Australia & New Zealand and of course, using our amazing appliances. There are Fudgy Gluten Free Brownies, Chocolate Almond Tiramisu Cake and of course a perfect Chocolate Mud Cake! Just click the image and you will visit the recipe on www.kitchenaid.com.au And don’t forget there are so many more gorgeous recipes on our website for you to explore. Enjoy!
Finally, remember that you can ask me your chocolate cooking questions, or any KitchenAid cooking question, below. Or you can find me on Facebook or Twitter by following @kitch_therapist. I’m always here to help!