Chocolate Basics Tips

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What is White Chocolate?

White Chocolate

Good white chocolate is made with pure cocoa butter and sugar, powdered milk and sometimes vanilla. The only thing missing is the cocoa liquor. But be careful and read labels - there is lots of white junk being sold that is not made with pure cocoa - instead coconut oil or vegetable oil are used. These can taste just fine - but shouldn't be called white chocolate!

What is Bittersweet and Semisweet chocolate?

Bittersweet (Semisweet) Chocolate

Eating or cooking chocolate enriched with cocoa butter and sweetened with sugar is called Bittersweet (dark) or Semisweet Chocolate. The ratio between the amount of sugar and the amount of cocoa butter is often given - 88% to 90% cocoa butter is seriously dark chocolate, 70% is a pretty standard percentage. 60% is generally called Semisweet. True chocophiles prefer the higher percentages - like the Dolfin 88% dark chocolate bar. Semisweet chocolate is also available as chips for cooking or mixing into trail mix.

What is Chocolate Liquor?

Basic Chocolate Liquor

This is the starting point for what we call chocolate. Chocolate Liquor is made by first fermenting the seeds or beans of the tropical cacao tree. This develops the flavor. The fermented beans are then dried, cleaned, sorted, roasted and cracked. The resulting 'nibs' are then ground under high pressure to a fine dark brown liquidy paste called Chcolate liquor. About 54% of the weight of fine chocolate liquor is made of cocoa butter.

What is Dutch Cocoa?

Dutch-processed cocoa

This is cocoa powder that has been treated to reduce the natural acidity. The result is a cocoa powder that is darker in color and has a more mellow flavor. It burns more easily than unsweetened cocoa - so it should be avoided if the recipe calls for high temperatures.

What do I do when chocolate seizes and hardens while melting?

Chocolate Seizures

What to do when you are melting chocolate and it suddenly clutches, tightens, stiffens, and hardens?

Try putting a little oil on the problem - about 1 tsp of oil per ounce of chocolate. Then beat vigorously until the chocolate agrees to behave.

Of course the best bet is to not let this happen - and most modern chefs avoid it by using the microwave to melt chocolate - not the more traditional double boiler or bain marie.

Another tip - the more additivies a chocolate has - the greater the probability it will mis-behave. Stick to really pure chocolates for the best results.

What is Unsweetened Cocoa Powder?

Unsweetened Cocoa

Fine-textured powder ground from the solids left after the cocoa butter has been extracted from the chocolate liquor. Unsweetened Cocoa is richly flavored - and used in many recipes. It is also naturally acidic - and will react with baking soda to create carbon dioxide. This gas acts to leaven baked goods - so don't substitute when a recipe calls for Unsweeted cocoa unless you also add something to help the leavening process along.

What is Chocolate Liquor?

Fine Chocolate Liquor

The exact recipe for the chocolate liquors used by various chcolate manufacturers are closely guarded secrets. Since the quality and flavor profile of the liquor determines the exact flavor of the resulting chocolate - there is a great deal of competition and science in the exact methods used. In Belgim, considered by most to be the home of the finest chocolate manufacturers - tank loads of chocolate liquor are treated almost as carefully as tray loads of diamonds. And worth almost as much!

What is Milk Chocolate?

Milk chocolate

Milk Chocolate is primarily an eating chocolate. The cocoa butter and sugar mixture is enriched with powdered skim milk - up to the equivalent of 1 cup of whole milk in the average-sized candy bar.

What is Unsweetened Chocolate?

Unsweetened Chocolate

Pure chocolate liquor ground from roasted cacao beans and solidified in block shaped molds. Not intended to be eaten on its own - but very handy for cooking. Combine unsweetened chocolate with sugar and butter, milk or cream in recipes to get that distinctive chocolate flavor. Unsweetened Chocolate is also refered to as bitter chocolate.

How do I make a chocolate dip for fruits? What kind of fruits are best to dip into it?

Chocolate Dipping Sauce For Fruit

This chocolate dipping sauce for fruit will be made in a double boiler.

Simply melt 2 cups of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup of vegetable shortening over very hot water. Make sure the water is not boiling. Stir the mixture until it is smooth and then keep it over the hot water while dipping.

Put the fruit on toothpicks for dipping and after each piece is dipped, place it on cookie sheets that have been lined with foil. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving. Do not keep out of refrigeration for more than 45 minutes or you will have tacky chocolate.

Use your favorite fruits. Some good choices for this recipe include:

- strawberries
- grapes
- kiwi slices
- orange slices
- banana pieces
- pieces of pineapple
- cherries
- apple slices

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Joe Wallace