Chocolate has to be the most versatile ingredient used in baking. Aside from being delicious when eaten on its own, it’s used to make a never-ending list of some of your favorite desserts such as chocolate mousse, lava cake, brownies etc. Knowing how to cook with chocolate and figuring out how to manipulate its properties can be extremely useful in giving you a smooth, even consistency.
Ever had those times when you were new to baking and you found grainy, clumped bits of chocolate in what was supposed to be a fluffy, moist cake? That’s because you didn’t know how to cook the chocolate properly. Don’t worry though, by the end of this article you would know all about using chocolate in baking. From tempering, melting to bringing out their flavour, we got you covered.
Normal chocolate vs baking chocolate
Baking chocolate is also known as unsweetened or bitter chocolate and is basically solidified chocolate liquor. In the US, there is between 50 and 58% chocolate liquor in baking chocolate.
The chocolate you find in stores that are ready to eat, is baking chocolate with added sugar, lecithin and vanilla. This is known as sweet or semisweet chocolate, depending on its sugar content and contain around 15% chocolate liquor. Also note that semisweet and bittersweet chocolate can be used interchangeably in recipes.
Cooking chocolate can come in various forms, from bittersweet chocolate bars to sugar free chocolate chips. If your recipe doesn’t call for sweet or semisweet chocolate, it is better to use pure baking chocolate which is sugar free.
1. Melting Chocolate
When it comes to melting chocolate, pay attention to temperature. If you allow the chocolate to boil, it will burn. The best way to melt chocolate is to use the double boiler method:
- Heat a pot of water to just below boiling point.
- Place the cooking chocolate in a mixing bowl on top of the pan (don’t let it touch the water).
- Stir consistently with a wooden spoon or spatula
Alternatively, you can also microwave the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl and microwave in thirty second intervals, stirring between each one. Repeat until there are no bits left.
2. Tempering chocolate
Tempering chocolate involves turning melted chocolate into smooth solidified chocolate. It is often used to make delicate chocolate confectionery like chocolate coated fruit. Though tempering sounds simple enough, there are some precise instructions:
- Melt of the chocolate you need
- Bring the temperature up to 45-50C using a digital thermometer. Remove from the stove as soon as the temperature is reached.
- Add the remaining quarter of the chocolate and bring down the temperature to 27C.
This new chocolate should harden quickly and have a smooth consistency.
3. Cutting Chocolate
Cutting big chunks of baking chocolate is best achieved by using a serrated knife.
Other tips on handling chocolate during baking:
- Add shortening to the chocolate prior to melting to get a smoother consistency. This works best for coatings for things like fruit where it achieves a more even coating. Add half a teaspoon of shortening to every ounce of chocolate.
- Chocolate starts to melt at around 27C and fully melts by around 45-50C. Higher temperatures can burn the chocolate
- Cacao percentage affects the way chocolate melts and cools. For savoury chocolate dishes, use chocolate with cacao content of 65% and above.
- It’s easier to use cooking chocolate bars than chips. Chips don’t melt as smoothly since they’re designed to hold onto their shape.
When you’re working with chocolate in baking, it is important to know the various properties of chocolate and how they affect chocolate behavior during heating. In a nutshell, don’t use temperatures above 50C as the chocolate might burn. Also, pay close attention to specific temperatures and instructions for processes like tempering to give you the smoothest result.