Willy Wonka and the movie Chocolat make working with chocolate seem romantic, creative, delicious and… easy. It seems that all you need is an artistic soul and a good idea. But don’t put your chocolate in the melting pot quite yet – there are rules.
Rules? Making chocolate is actually a complicated chemical process that takes special equipment and a lot of knowledge to master. Professional chocolatiers tend to be proud and they guard their trade secrets with the tenacity of Cerberus.
But don’t worry – maybe you won’t get your hands on secret chocolate making recipes right away, but we have some basic tips for how not to screw up and end up with a chunky ball of matte chocolate that doesn’t look at all appetising. You can control the mouthfeel, smoothness and melting point by adding different amounts of cacao butter to your melted chocolate. You can mix it with other ingredients to make it creamy and smooth.
Yes – even something as basic as chocolate-dipped strawberries take some knowledge. So without further ado, let’s start with them:
These are romantic classics, and they are amazing gifts for V-day, birthdays, anniversaries or “just because”. What we are looking for here is that glossy, velvety look.
We want the chocolate to “snap” when we bite into the fruit, not be chewy and matte. How to accomplish that? (This will work whenever you want to get the pro “glossy” effect on pretty much anything.)
The keyword here is “temper”. Chocolate needs to be tempered! This is the same word used for tempering steel or any other metal – you have to control it’s hardness and chemical structure by a process of heating, reheating and cooling in proper temperatures.
It might seem like a complicated process but don’t worry. It’s also forgiving. You can temper and re-temper chocolate if the effect isn’t quite what you wanted. If you get a dull looking finish or “bloom” you can start over.
- Chop chocolate into small pieces (if you’re not working with chocolate chips)
- Put the chocolate into a water bath
- Remove from heat when melted
- Wait about 20 minutes and put the chocolate back in the water bath until it re-melts again
- If it gets too hot you can add pieces of unmelted chocolate to it
- Stir, stir, stir, stir. This helps to create the molecular structure needed for the glossy finish
- Once the chocolate pours from your spoon in a steady stream, it is most likely perfectly tempered.
- Test it by putting a piece of paper in and setting it in the refridgerator for about 30 seconds.
- If the test strip develops a shine, you’re ready to dip!
- If you got to this point, don’t “shock” the chocolate by adding anything else to it – except for the dipping strawberries of course.
- If it’s dull and blooms, you can try the whole process again
This might seem like a long and boring process, but it leads to an ideal outcome and a professional, glossy strawberry.
Creams, mousses and buttercreams
Chocolate is delicious all by itself – if you’re a fan of dark, unsweetened chocolate, we understand. But, it’s no secret that chocolate goes best with fat. It dissolves best in fat, and it even contains a lot of fat all by itself.
This is why it’s best to mix it with things like butter, cream cheese, whole milk – you can’t go wrong. This is why chocolate goes best with
- Buttercream frosting
- Cream cheese frosting or filling
- Chocolate cream pie
- Chocolate moose
- Chocolate Ice Cream
If you put chocolate in any of those, the effect will be to die for. Remember – chocolate enhances anything that is high in fat. That’s probably why chocolate-dipped bacon has become such a culinary fad.
Fruit – for dipping and flavoring
Not all fruit goes with chocolate but some fruit seems to have been made with chocolate in mind. Here are some flavors that go very well with chocolate:
Oranges – oranges have long gone well with chocolate. But be careful – whatever you do, don’t just dip an orange into a batch of tempered chocolate. It’s orange oil we’re talking about here. Remember fats and chocolate?
Orange oil is extremely flavorful and aromatic, and it complements the buttery and nutty notes of chocolate with a crisp freshness. It’s best to use either a drop of essential oil or lemon zest – which contains a lot of the essential oils. It will mix and perfume your chocolate.
This is a great trick in hot chocolates when mixed with cinnamon for the cold winter evenings.
Cherries – cherries and chocolate have gone well together since the days of old. The original cherry and chocolate mix was used with alcoholic truffles.
The history behind it hides behind a tart cherry cordial, popular in Central Europe. The byproduct of making this cordial was an alcohol-infused cherry. What better use for this little gem than plopping it in the center of a chocolate truffle?
Today you can find cherry and chocolate variations in many ice creams, cakes, cherry and chocolate fudge and tarts.
It’s especially good with dark chocolate vegan recipes.
Lavender is a great flavour to infuse your chocolate with. This can be done with actual lavender flowers or a touch of lavender oil. This is meant to be a whiff, a hint – don’t overdo it! This is best done with snacks like truffles, cookies or small pieces of chocolate.
Chocolate craft in your home
Many people are afraid to work with chocolate. Don’t be! Once you master a few tricks of the trade, you’ll become a chocolate pro.
Photo by Brigitte Tohm from Pexels