Chocolate! It’s everywhere. We may know how to enjoy it, but not all of us know how best to work with it in the kitchen.
For those with a sweet tooth, there’s nothing more delightful than a decadent chocolate dessert, the chocolate oozing as you bite into it. But baking and decorating with it can be tricky.
Chocolate is a suspension of cocoa solids in fat, and that is one of the main reasons cooking with it can be tricky. You have to take a little care, especially when it comes to heat.
Treat chocolate with care
Chocolate does not like high heat, so use gentle heat to melt it. If the bowl is too hot to touch, you are overheating it. This will turn your smooth glossy chocolate into a crumbly mess. The best way to melt chocolate is to fill a saucepan with 2cm of water and bring to the boil. Place the finely chopped chocolate in a glass or metal bowl which fits on top of the saucepan. Place the bowl with the chocolate on top of the saucepan and turn off the heat. Stir after a few minutes and then leave to melt completely.
The smallest drop of water can cause a big bowl of melted chocolate to seize. When chocolate seizes, it gets crumbly and will not melt again. If this happens, don’t throw it away. Use it to make hot chocolate or a chocolate sauce or add it into brownie batter.
Buy chocolate that is sustainably sourced
Cocoa farmers are some of the poorest in the world and by buying the best quality chocolate you can afford, which is sustainably sourced, cocoa farmers are paid more for their cocoa beans so they can earn a decent living.
Do apply gentle heat when melting chocolate
Chocolate requires temperatures of only 30ºC to start melting, due to the high cocoa butter content. Chop or break the chocolate pieces before melting. Melt chocolate straight in a saucepan or pot. It has to always be over a gentle heat. For example, steam or indirect like a microwave.
Do taste a variety of chocolates that have a high cocoa content in order to see what will best suit your palate.
We always recommend starting with the highest percentage of cocoa you might have. For example, 90% then drop down to 85%, and then 70 % cocoa.
Be careful of mix and match
Don’t mix a variety of good quality chocolate with inferior chocolate that falls outside the premium category as this will not yield the best results and will be a waste of money – and a waste of the good quality chocolate.
Don’t assume all artisanal-made chocolate is better
Many chocolates are not formulated to re-melt and are not used in recipes successfully thus not yielding maximum flavour and more importantly, might change the texture of the bake or dessert.