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CHEFS In Season Featuring Chocolate: Chocolate Recipes, Tips, Information and more from CHEFS Catalog.
Featured Chocolate Recipes
About Chocolate
February is just around the corner and with it the busiest day of the year for candy makers, particularly chocolatiers. According to the National Confectioners Association, 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates will be bought and given over Valentine’s Day. That’s a lot of chocolate. Not bad for an ingredient that, for a large part of its history, was consumed mostly as a drink.

History of Chocolate

Chocolate originates with the Cacao bean, the fruit of the Cacao tree. The trees are indigenous to Central and South America and were widely cultivated by the ancient native tribes and was probably first used as a bitter spice. It is believed that the word chocolate was derived from the Aztec word “xocoatl,” an Aztec drink made of ground cocao beans, spices, corn, vanilla and chilies. The word “cocoa,” however, is believed to have been a misspelling of cocao, made by European traders.

The bitter chocolate drink was introduced to Spanish Conquistadors, who brought it to Spain. By the 17th century, the drink was common among European nobility, with one important change: the chilies were replaced with sugar. It wouldn’t be until the late 1820’s that Dutch chocolate maker discovered the process for making cocoa powder, and it was soon being used in cakes and other sweets. Others would build on his discovery, and in 1830, English chocolate maker Joseph Storrs Fry would product the world’s first “eating chocolate.”

Selecting Chocolate

When selecting chocolate quality should be the first determining factor, and there is typically a correlation between quality and price. However, high-quality chocolates typically contain large amounts of cocoa butter and solids providing more chocolate flavor than inferior chocolates.

When possible taste your chocolates before purchasing. If the chocolate flavor will be the primary flavor of a recipe, make sure you like the chocolate’s flavor. Good chocolate should be smooth and velvety as it melts in your mouth (i.e., mouth-feel).

Make sure that the surface of the chocolate is smooth, glossy and blemish free. Scarred, cloudy or grey chocolate may be a sign that the chocolate is old, been stored improperly, or subject to extreme temperatures, and should be avoided.

Types of Chocolate

Cocoa Powder

Coca powder is generally made by removing the majority of the cocoa butter from the bean then grinding the remaining mass into a powder. There are two types of cocoa powder: natural and Dutch-processed.

Natural cocoa powder is very bitter on its own, but will lend a deep chocolate flavor to the finished recipe, but a slight bitter after note may be noticed. Use natural cocoa powder in recipes calling for baking soda for leavening.

Dutch-processed cocoa is treated with alkaline to neutralize its acids. The process will darken the cocoa and gives it a milder flavor. Because the neutral Dutch-processed cocoa powder will not react with baking soda, it is best used in recipes calling for baking powder as a leavening.

German Chocolate/Sweet Chocolate

Developed by Samual German, thus giving the chocolate its name, of Water Baker & Company (i.e., Baker’s Chocolate), German chocolate is a dark baking chocolate with sugar added to it. The addition of the sugar is why it is often referred to as Sweet Chocolate.

Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate contains milk or cream, higher sugar content, and other flavorings (e.g., vanilla), in addition to the chocolates. It is the most common form of eating chocolate. Because of the high sugar content and added milk, cooking with milk chocolate can be challenging because of an increased risk for burning.

Semi-Sweet and Bittersweet Chocolate

Both names refer to a dark chocolate that does not contain milk solids. Americans mostly refer to it as semi-sweet while Europeans refer to it as bittersweet. In the U.S., the addition of cocoa differentiates the types of chocolate. Dark and extra dark contain the more cocoa resulting in a more bitter flavor. Bittersweet usually has a strong but milder chocolate flavor, and semisweet has more sugar added.

White Chocolate

Technically, white chocolate isn’t a chocolate. It contains only cocoa butter, milk, sugar, and flavor. The lack of chocolate solids other than cocoa butter account for its white color.

Storing Chocolate

Chocolate should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Keep chocolates out of direct sunlight. Avoid storing chocolate close to foods with strong odors, as chocolate will easily absorb strong odors.

Before freezing, place chocolate in an airtight container. When thawing for use, allow the chocolate to come to room temperature in the storage container. This will prevent condensation from forming on the chocolate that will interfere with melting and may cause the chocolate to seizing.

Chocolate that has been exposed to extreme temperatures or has been mishandled may develop chocolate bloom. Bloom in a powdery grey coating that appears on the chocolate. Bloom doesn’t always mean that the chocolate is bad, but it will affect the flavor and texture of the candy.

Bloom

There are two types of chocolate bloom: fat bloom and sugar bloom.

Fat bloom is the butterfats that have separated in the chocolate and risen to the surface of the candy. It does not necessarily mean that the chocolate has spoiled.

Sugar bloom occurs when chocolate has been exposed to extreme temperatures or high humidity. The sugar in the chocolate has crystallized. The result of sugar bloom in an unpleasant grainy texture, while not harmful if eaten, should be avoided.

Cooking with Chocolate

Chocolate can feature in both sweet and savory recipes. Just like any ingredient, the subtle flavors used by chocolate markers can help enhance a recipe. Chocolates flavored with cherry or pomegranate can be used in sauces for pork, and chocolates flavored with chili make a nice addition to chicken mole (mo-lay). However, the most common use of chocolates today is in desserts.

Melting Chocolate

When melting chocolate, it is best when the pieces of chocolate are evenly sized and relatively small. Typically, that means chopping the chocolate. Because of heat generated from a food processor or blender that could cause the chocolate to melt prematurely, it is best to use a knife.

For easiest melting, melt chocolate over a double boiler. This will keep the chocolate away from direct heat to help prevent overheating. Overheating chocolate will cause it to lose its shine and become thick and lumpy.

Place the chocolate in the bowl, and keep a close eye on it. Stir occasionally to check the progress. Remove the melting chocolate when just a few lumps remain and use the residual heat to melt the rest of the way.

Overheated Chocolate

If the chocolate becomes overheated and goes lumpy, immediately remove from heat. Transfer the overheated chocolate to a dry bowl, and cool the chocolate with additional unmelted chocolate. Stir constantly. When cool enough, taste the chocolate to ensure that it doesn’t have a burnt flavor. If the chocolate remains lumpy, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and stir. If chocolate does not smooth out, it will be best to start with a fresh batch of chocolate.

Seized Chocolate

Chocolate will seize if it comes into contact with water or other liquids when melting. The seized mess will be a gritty, rough mass of chocolate.

To prevent seizing:
  • Make sure bowls and utensils used for melting chocolate are dry
  • If melting chocolate for dipping (e.g., chocolate dipped strawberries), make sure the object to be dipped is dry
  • Don’t cover melting chocolate with a lid, to help prevent condensation
  • Keep water simmering hot, but not boiling to help prevent splashing over the side
  • When removing the bowl from the double boiler, wipe the bottom and sides to prevent any water from reaching the chocolate
  • Avoid using a wooden spoon or utensils, as they may retain moisture

If the chocolate seizes, stir in 1 tablespoon of solid vegetable shortening for every 6 ounces of chocolate. As you stir in the melting vegetable shortening, the chocolate should loosen. The resulting chocolate can be used for baking and melted chocolate recipes. Although seized chocolate can be saved, it isn’t recommended for dipping (i.e., chocolate dipped strawberries)

Substitutions

  • 3 tablespoons Dutch-Processed cocoa = 3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder = 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa plus 1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate = 3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted together and stirred until smooth
  • 1 ounce German Chocolate = 1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate plus 1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
  • 1 ounce German Chocolate = 3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder plus 4 teaspoons granulated white sugar, and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted together and stirred until smooth
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate chips = 1 ounce semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 1 ounce semi-sweet baking chocolate = 1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate plus 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 1 ounce semi-sweet baking chocolate = 3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder plus 3 tablespoons granulated white sugar and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted together and stirred until smooth

Fun Facts About Chocolate

  • Many South and Central American Indians used cocoa beans as a form of currency.
  • Aztec Emperor Montezuma is believed to have consumed 50 goblets of hot chocolate flavored with chilies, everyday, believing it would bring him wisdom and power.
  • Pope Pius V loved chocolate such much that he declared drinking chocolate did not break a religious fast: a decision that would be upheld for 190 years by subsequent popes.
  • A chocolate maker is the one who roasts, grinds, and produces the chocolate (i.e., couverture). A chocolatier takes the couverture makes the chocolate confections that we consume each year.
  • Worldwide, over 600,000 tons of cocoa beans are consumed every year.
  • It only takes 400 cocoa beans for a chocolate maker to produce 1 pound of chocolate.
  • The average American consumes more than 12 pounds of chocolate every year, while the Swiss will eat approximately 21 pounds.
  • More than twice as many women crave chocolate than men; although, men eat more dark chocolate than women.
  • About 40% of the worlds almond crop and 20% of the words peanut crop is used by the chocolate industry.
  • Chocolate will melt in your mouth because the melting point is just below body temperature.
  • A milk chocolate candy bar has more protein than a banana. A dark chocolate candy bar contains less sugar than a glass of orange juice.
  • The first brownie recipe was introduced in 1896 in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.


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