Cooking with Chocolate

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Cooking with Chocolate

For those that love chocolate there is hardly ever a dessert decision to be made – chocolate wins every time.  At this time of year I tend to look for warm puddings such as  chocolate self saucing pudding, chocolate melting middle puddings or chocolate bread and butter pudding.  If the dessert is to be preceded by a particularly hearty meal then I may go for a sliver of rich chocolate tart with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

The secret of good chocolate, like good coffee is in its beans.  Each bean is chosen for its own characteristic – its bitterness, its perfume, its subtle flavours and then roasted to the chocolatiers taste.

The dark chocolate used by chefs and chocolatiers is known as couverture and comes from Belgium, Switzerland and France.  It is available from specialised food stores.  Look for brand names such as Varlhona and Callebaut.  It is expensive but when used for special occasions, it is worth the treat.
This chocolate has a high purity level of cocoa solids, look for a chocolate level of somewhere between 60 and 75%.  You can find Lindt chocolate with high percentage of cocoa solids in the supermarket.
As chocolate is measured on purity so too is cocoa.  Dutch processed cocoa is generally better in quality than regular supermarket cocoa.  While it is also priced accordingly I do tend to purchase Varlhona or Equagold as the results are so superior.

Chocolate burns easily, it is safest to melt it on top of a double boiler, a stainless steel bowl on top of a saucepan of water is fine.  Keep the water at a very gentle simmer and don’t let the bowl touch the water.  Never cover the chocolate or let drops of water get into the bowl or the chocolate will seize (become solid).
You can also microwave the chocolate but make sure you use a low heat and check the chocolate regularly as once again if it gets too hot it can seize.

Chocolate ganache makes a wonderful luscious icing for cakes.  Gently melt 300 g dark chocolate with 100 ml cream and stir until smooth.  Spread this liberally over cakes.

There are huge variations in price and quality of chocolate.  I tend to buy Nestle or Cadbury chocolate chips for kids biscuits and for family fare.  If I am making brownie for the family I will use regular brand chocolate and if I am making it for an adult special treat then I will go for something more exotic.

Chocolate, like life, should be approached with a passionate yet reckless abandon.

Favourite chocolate recipes
Chocolate sugared almonds
Favourite chocolate cake
Rocky Horror Slice

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