• Demystify

    The many layers of chocolate

  • –  Travel Food & Wine 

    These luxe desserts all have one thing in common… chocolate, but not as you know it.

    They are about embracing the many textures this sweet decadent and versatile ingredient can take on – think a soft gooey peanut butter and chocolate center of a fudgy cake, the shatter of a crunchy layer of chocolate cup encasing golden caramel or a chocolate layer blanketing a soft doughnut and a chewy warm cookie marbled with chocolate chunks.

    These chocolate recipes are all easy to make at home and celebrate the emotion of chocolate in all its glory and come complete with our teams guide to selecting the right chocolate and  ‘cant go wrong’ tips on cooking with chocolate.

    Chocolate Tips

    • Do not store chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer because when it’s brought to room temperature condensation will form on the surface of the chocolate and effect it’s ability to melt smoothly. In fact, in most cases chocolate and water makes a disastrous combination. If you’re melting chocolate all by itself and even a drop of water accidentally makes its way into the pot, you can possibly cause the chocolate mixture to “seize”, meaning the chocolate will tighten and form an unworkable mass. If this should happen when you are melting chocolate add a few drops of vegetable oil to the chocolate which will allow it to relax enough that other ingredients can be mixed in.
    • Chocolate chips, also known as morsels, are fine for cookie baking but don’t be tempted to melt them down and utilize them in lieu of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. When forced to melt you’ll find the consistency is thick and difficult to use because it contains significantly less cocoa butter (about 29%) than average bar chocolates. Also professionals say that most chocolate chips available for baking often use low grade chocolate that can offer a more chalky and rather dry texture when used in the end product. Its is as important to select good quality chocolate chips as selecting good quality chocolate bars for cooking. Alternatively, chocolate bars can also be cut into small square pieces (chocolate chunks) and used instead of chocolate chips for a more superior end product.
    • It stands to reason the better tasting the chocolate you select to use, the better the chocolate dessert.
    • Be sure to choose chocolate that has a glossy, unblemished surface. Superficial imperfections such as bloom, that white dusty film, is an indication that the chocolate has been improperly stored and/or has melted and hardened once again, although it may not always affect its taste.
    • Chocolate in fine condition will snap cleanly when you break it, poor quality chocolate on the other hand will crumble.
    • Select chocolate that smells chocolately and appetizing and make sure the chocolate you buy is neither initially or subsequently stored in or around very aromatic foods like garlic, tea, coffee, or detergents, all which can affect it’s flavor.
    • Last, try to buy chocolate you’ve had a chance to try first. Wondering how to judge a good chunk of chocolate? Just place a piece on your tongue and hold it in your mouth allowing it to slowly melt. If it coats your mouth with a smooth, velvety feel that’s a good sign you’re eating an excellent, albeit most likely, an expensive piece of chocolate. A sandy, grainy texture however should be avoided.

    Types of Chocolate

    The main types of chocolate are white chocolate, milk chocolate, semisweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate. These types of chocolate may be produced with ordinary cacao beans (mass-produced and cheap) or specialty cacao beans (aromatic and expensive) or a mixture of these two types. The composition of the mixture, origin of cacao beans, the treatment and roasting of beans, and the types and amounts of additives used will significantly affect the flavor and the price of the final chocolate.

    White chocolate

    Chocolate made with cocoa butter, sugar, milk, emulsifier, vanilla and sometimes other flavorings. It does not contain any non-fat ingredients from the cacao bean and has therefore an off-white color. In some countries white chocolate cannot be called ‘chocolate’ because of the low content of cocoa solids. It has a mild and pleasant flavor and can be used to make Chocolate Mousse, Panna Cotta and other desserts.

    Milk chocolate

    Sweet chocolate which normally contains 10-20% cocoa solids (which includes cocoa and cocoa butter) and more than 12% milk solids. It is seldom used for baking, except for cookies.

    Dark chocolate

    Sweetened chocolate with high content of cocoa solids and no or very little milk, it may contain up to 12% milk solids. Dark chocolate can either be sweet, semi-sweet, bittersweet or unsweetened. If a recipe specifies ‘dark chocolate’ you should first try semi-sweet dark chocolate.

    Sweet dark chocolate

    Similar to semi-sweet chocolate, it is not always possible to distinguish between the flavor of sweet and semi-sweet chocolate. If a recipe asks for sweet dark chocolate you may also use semi-sweet chocolate. Contains often 35-45% cocoa solids.

    Semi-sweet chocolate

    This is the classic dark baking chocolate which can be purchased in most grocery stores. It is frequently used for cakes, cookies and brownies. Can be used instead of sweet dark chocolate. It has a good, sweet flavor. Contains often 40-62% cocoa solids.

    Bittersweet chocolate

    A dark sweetened chocolate which must contain at least 35% cocoa solids. Good quality bittersweet chocolate usually contains 60% to 85% cocoa solids depending on brand. If the content of cocoa solids is high the content of sugar is low, giving a rich, intense and more or less bitter chocolate flavor. Bittersweet chocolate is often used for baking/cooking. If a recipe specifies bittersweet chocolate do not substitute with semi-sweet or sweet chocolate. Please ensure that you buy the correct type! European types of bittersweet chocolate usually contains very large amounts of cocoa solids, and some of them have quite bitter taste.

    Unsweetened chocolate

    A bitter chocolate which is only used for baking. The flavor is not good, so it is not suitable for eating. Use it only if a recipe specifies ‘unsweetened chocolate’. It contains almost 100% cocoa solids, about half of it might be fat (cocoa butter).