Cooking With Chocolate — Tips and Hints

Melting Chocolate

1. Melt in a Double Boiler
This is the best method for melting chocolate. Put the chocolate in the top of a double boiler; put water in the bottom pot and heat until the water is hot, but not boiling. Stir the chocolate until it is melted. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a heat proof bowl in the top of a pot whose top is smaller than the bowl. Put water in the pot, but don’t let it touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir until the chocolate is melted.

2. Melt in the Microwave
Place the chocolate in a glass custard cup or glass measuring cup. Microwave on high for 20 seconds. Remove and stir. Repeat as needed until the chocolate is not quite throughly melted, then stir so the chocolate’s own heat completes the melting process.

Tempering Chocolate

1. Chocolate that is to be used for dipping and molding must be tempered. Chocolate that is used in baked items, frosting, puddings or other such desserts does not have to be tempered.

2. For home tempering, you can purchase a small home tempering appliance for about $150. You only have to put the chocolate into the machine.

3. For home tempering done by hand, these are the steps:

* Shave about 4 ounces of the chocolate called for in a recipe.
* Chop the rest of the chocolate very fine.
* Melt the chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water. Do not let the water touch the chocolate. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted and has reached a temperature of 100-105 degrees on a candy thermometer.
* Remove the top of the double boiler off the bottom pot.
* Stir the shaved chocolate into the mixture, one tablespoon at a time to bring down the temperature of the mixture to 86 degrees.
* If chocolate is too warm or too cold, it will not be shiny and will not set properly.

Storing Chocolate

1. Store chocolate wrapped in brown paper or aluminum foil in a cool, dry place (65-70 degrees). Plastic wraps and storing in the refrigerator may cause the chocolate to develop moisture, which can ruin chocolate for cooking. Temperatures over 78 degrees will cause the chocolate to melt. Should the chocolate get too warm and develop “cocoa butter bloom,” grayish discoloration or “sugar bloom,” sugar rises to the surface and chocolate becomes grainy, melting will restore the original color. Generally, chocolate stored at the right temperature will retain freshness for over a year.

2. Store cocoa powder in a tightly closed container to retain freshness almost indefinitely.

Chocolate Substitutions

1. For one (1 ounce) square unsweetened chocolate
Substitute 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa and 1 tablespoon shortening.

2. For one ounce semisweet chocolate
Substitute 3 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips or 1 (1 ounce) square unsweetened chocolate and 1 tablespoon sugar.

3. For one cup (6 ounces) Semi-sweet chocolate
Substitute 6 tablespoons cocoa, 7 tablespoons sugar,1/4 cup shortening

4. For one bar (4 ounces) sweet baking chocolate
Substitute three tablespoons cocoa plus 4 1/2 tablespoons sugar, 2 2/3 tablespoons shortening

The Types of Chocolate

The Start of Chocolate–Chocolate Liquor

Chocolate starts with the cacao (cocoa) bean. It grows on a tropical evergreen tree only 20 degrees north and south of the Equator, mostly in West Africa and Latin America.

Cacao Nibs are the main part of the bean. The Nibs are cleaned and roasted. They contain more than 50% cocoa butter.

The Nibs are ground with enough heat to liquefy the cocoa butter, creating chocolate liquor, liquid essence not alcohol.

Cocoa butter is a vegetable fat that is removed when the chocolate liquor is pressed under pressure. This butter gives chocolate its distinctive texture.

The Chocolate

Unsweetened (bitter, pure) chocolate is 100% chocolate liquor with nothing added to it. It is molded into one ounce blocks and sold eight blocks to a package. It is used for baking and cooking.

Semisweet (bittersweet, extra bittersweet) contains at least 35% chocolate liquor, but can contain 35-60%. It has sugar and extra cocoa butter added to it. It is sold in blocks or chocolate chips and is used mostly for cooking and baking.

Sweet (Dark) chocolate (also called German sweet chocolate) contains the same ingredients as semisweet, but has more sugar. It must contain at least 15% chocolate liquor. It is used mostly for baking and cooking.

Milk Chocolate is sweet chocolate with milk added. It contains at least 10% chocolate liquor. It should not be used in cooking unless a recipe specifically calls for it.

Cocoa Powder Is a form of pure chocolate with almost all the cocoa butter removed and no additives or preservatives. Since the cocoa butter is removed, cocoa powder has the lowest fat content of any chocolate product.

White Chocolate is not really chocolate at all since it contains no chocolate liquor. High quality white chocolate is made with cocoa butter, sugar, vegetable oils, milk and vanilla, but lower grades have had all the cocoa butter removed and replaced with another vegetable oil. It is used in cooking and candy making.

Chocolate Flavored means that a product has its flavor derived from chocolate liquor or cocoa, but not enough to meet the government standards to be labeled “chocolate.”

Artificial Chocolate is mostly chemical, not chocolate. It contains nothing derived from the cacao bean.