Cooking Chocolate

Come on, admit it; who hasn’t been tempted to raid the baking box when the biscuit tin is empty and a swift chocolate fix is required? I’m not going to answer this one myself but suffice to say I don’t keep cooking chocolate in the house any more unless a baking session is imminent.

So, what exactly is baking chocolate and is it so very wrong to snap off a square or two in desperate times? Well, the truth is that cooking chocolate is pretty interchangeable with regular chocolate in that there are lots of different styles and qualities available. If you’re making crispy cereal bars with the kids, chances are you don’t want to splash out a fortune on a top quality bar. However, if you’re creating a rich chocolate mousse or chocolate fondants for a posh dinner party then you might want to push the boat out and treat your guests to something a little more decadent. Generally, cooking chocolate has quite a high cocoa solid content in order to still get a substantial flavour once the other ingredients have been added.

I suppose it just comes down to the wording – ‘cooking chocolate’ doesn’t exactly conjure up images of romance, decadence or even a treat. It reminds me more of being a student and checking out the cheap aisles at the supermarket, in search of a bargain. However, wording is often just wording and cooking chocolate doesn’t necessarily imply an inferior product. Smother that chocolate over a cake or pour it into a ramekin and you’ve got the stuff of dessert dreams.

White Chocolate

Many chocolate aficionados don’t class white chocolate as being chocolate at all. Why, I hear you shout? Well, it’s a pretty persuasive argument I suppose. The fact is that white chocolate doesn’t actually contain any cocoa solids. It has cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids but no cocoa solids. I suppose it comes down to technicalities and what you consider to be the main components of a good chocolate bar. Cocoa butter is derived from the same tree, same pod and even the same beans as cocoa solids but it’s certainly not the benchmark by which quality chocolate bars are measured. I’m sure people will be wringing their hands in horror to even see the words ‘white chocolate’ mentioned on these pages but let’s give it a fair chance – it does have a role to play in the world of chocolate.

Some milk chocolate brands contain very little in the way of cocoa solids so we shouldn’t really push all the blame for poorer quality chocolate onto the white variety. I suppose the argument is that is should be called a sweet instead of chocolate but it’s only a name. Those people in the know will choose only the best dark chocolate and will check labels and do their research; those who just want a quick sweet fix aren’t really going to be bothered about whether there’s a cocoa solid in sight. Right, I’m off to the shops!