Chocolate, a household favourite! The perfect sweet treat to have while snuggled up in front of the TV, catching up on all your favourite series. If you want to experiment with chocolate in a recipe, follow these tips and tricks- it’s much easier than you think. Don’t let the fancy terms, like tempering and twilling, scare you.
Know what chocolate really is.
We are all aware that chocolate comes from cocoa beans. The beans are harvested and left to ferment before being dried and processed. The fermenting stage is very important, it allows the flavour to be well developed creating the finest chocolate quality. After the beans have been dried and processed they are roasted, this is the final phase that allows cocoa beans to form the yummy chocolate flavour!
Pick the right type of chocolate.
Choosing the right type of chocolate is an essential part to creating the perfect treat. Check the percentage of cocoa that is found in the chocolate. The higher the percentage, the purer the chocolate.
Milk chocolate has a very low percentage of cocoa, with added milk and sugar. This is the popular household favourite. Plain standard chocolate has anything from 60-80% of cocoa in it. It is far less sweet and the best type to bake and cook with. White chocolate is made with cocoa butter and not cocoa beans.
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Melt that chocolate baby!
On the stove:
The best and most effective way to melt chocolate is on the stove. Simply use a double boiler or a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. This method is extremely time consuming but you’ll have more control over the melting process, reducing the risk of burning your chocolate.
Simply break the chocolate into small pieces and place in the glass bowl or top of the double boiler. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water! Do not let water come in contact with the chocolate! Use a wooden spoon while melting, stirring only once or twice. As soon as your chocolate is melted, turn the heat off. Voila!
In the microwave:
Place your broken pieces of chocolate into a microwave-proof bowl. Using medium power, melt the chocolate in 30 second bursts. Do not be tempted to cook the chocolate longer than it needs, you will burn it. Burnt chocolate is bitter and cannot be used.
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Most of us have watched Master Chef and seen the tempering process. It may look daunting but its really simple if you have the patience. Tempering is the process of raising and lowering the temperature to melt chocolate. This process is used for making decorative elements and molding chocolate into shapes, like an Easter egg. When done correctly, the chocolate will have a clear ‘snap’ when broken and will have a gorgeous glossy finish. If molding of chocolate is done without tempering it will not keep well and form a white powder on the surface.
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It is not necessary to temper chocolate when adding it to cakes or cupcakes.
How to temper chocolate:
Simply break the chocolate into small pieces and melt over simmering water, like melting chocolate over the stove. When the chocolate is melted, remove from the heat and leave to cool (approximately 30 minutes). Place the bowl back on the heat and reheat gently until the chocolate softens down but not completely melted. It is now ready to use. If the chocolate becomes too thick whilst using, just place it back on the water from time to time but don’t overheat.
IMPORTANT! Do not shock your chocolate.
A very important tip to remember when baking with chocolate is to not shock the chocolate. This means, once the chocolate has melted, do not use any cold utensils. Using a cold spoon to stir, or a cold bowl, will make the melted chocolate turn into a solid lump. Once this happens, the chocolate can never be melted again. So, always make sure you use a wooden spoon to stir and avoid water coming in contact with your melted chocolate.