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Mixed Melted Chocolate
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La Belle Cuisine
The 16 Most-Frequently-Asked
by Mary Goodbody
“Over the last 16 years, we have been asked numerous questions about
favorite subject. Some have been easy to answer, but others have sent us
scrambling. We look for answers from chocolate manufacturers, from
from chocolatiers, and from our own experience in the test
kitchen. And the past
years have taught us much, even as we continue
To celebrate our 16th birthday, we have compiled 16 of the most-frequently-
questions. Without doubt, there are at least 16 more that we could
the list. We hope these answer some of your questions – and
inspire you to
1. What is the difference between bittersweet and
Practically speaking, there is no difference. By FDA standards, both chocolates
must contain at least 35 percent chocolate liquor (unsweetened chocolate). After
this requirement is met, the individual manufacturers
can add more chocolate
liquor, as well as sugar, additional cocoa butter, milk solids, lecithin and
flavorings, such as vanilla and vanillin. (The addition of milk solids does not
make these chocolates ‘milk chocolate’ but instead is sometimes added in very
small amounts as a way to
smooth out the flavor.)
In past years, it was safe to generalize that European bitter chocolate was
referred to as ‘bittersweet’ and American bitter chocolate was referred to
‘semisweet.’ This is no longer a safe rule of thumb as more and more American
manufacturers use the term ‘bittersweet.’ Either can be used in
a recipe, but
depending on the type used when the recipe was developed, the outcome may be
very similar to the original intent, or quite different. It’s a good idea to
experiment to discover your favorite types of chocolates – and
if a recipe specifies a brand or type (such as ‘extra bittersweet’) try to use
it. Both semisweet and bittersweet chocolate may be referred to as ‘dark
2. What is white chocolate?
White chocolate is a combination of cocoa butter, sugar, butterfat, milk solids,
lecithin and flavorings. It contains no chocolate liquor and so gets
chocolate flavor from the cocoa butter. It also gets its ivory color
most sublime fat. [Check the label for cocoa butter content.] If
buy a product that is labeled ‘white chocolate’ and yet it looks bright
chances are it contains no cocoa butter but instead is a mixture of
fat, milk solids, sugar, lecithin and flavorings. This product may
confectionery or summer coating – the word chocolate will be
For years, The United States Standard of Identity barred U.S. manu-facturers from
calling the product ‘chocolate’ and so it was labeled confectionery or summer
coating. These standards are being reviewed
and may soon be relaxed. If this is
happens, American manufacturers
can call white chocolate just that – as they do
White chocolate is sensitive to heat – more so than dark chocolate –
melting it, take great care. Keep the water in a double
between 110 and
120 degrees F. White chocolate chips are tricky
melt in particular because
they contain the least amount of cocoa
butter of any form of white chocolate.
3. What is Dutch processed cocoa?
Dutch processed cocoa, which is also called ‘alkalized’ cocoa powder,
treated with an alkali during processing to produce a less harsh-tasting, darkly
colored cocoa. This process is purely to control flavor and color. Many people
erroneously assume that alkalized cocoa powder is ‘better’
than non-alkalized or ‘natural’ cocoa powder. It is no better, just more mellow
tasting and darker colored. For the best results, use the
indicated in the recipe.
All cocoa powder is made from chocolate liquor that has nearly all the
butter removed under pressure so that it forms a press cake. This
is ground into
powder. While cocoa is considered low in fat (compared
to other chocolates), it
still contains 22 percent cocoa butter.
4. What is the best way to melt chocolate?
For years, cooks preferred the double boiler for melting chocolate. It
the method of choice for many, although using the microwave
the most efficient and foolproof way to melt chocolate.
For even melting and to avoid scorching, melt chopped chocolate at 50 percent
(medium) power in the microwave. The amount of time neces-
sary depends on the
amount of chocolate, how finely it is chopped, the
of cocoa butter in the
chocolate, and the wattage of the micro-
wave. The appearance of the chocolate is
more telling than the time.
Begin with a minute or minute and a quarter and then
look at the choco-
it frequently, until it looks shiny and wet. It
will not melt
into a liquid
it does in a double boiler. When it looks soft, wet
remove it from
the microwave and stir it for about 1 minute
until it’s completely melted.
Stirring is important to stabilize the temper-
If you prefer the double boiler, make sure the water never boils or
to a simmer. Boiling and simmering produce steam, which
can seep into the
melting chocolate and cause it to stiffen, or ‘seize’.
chocolate frequently - it is never a bad idea to stir melting
chocolate and is
especially important for white or milk chocolates.
Do not let white or milk
chocolates attain temperatures exceeding
110 degrees F (remove them from the
heat source when they reach
105 degrees F); do not let unsweetened or bitter
temperatures exceeding 120 degrees F (remove them from the
source when they reach 115 degrees F).
Regardless of method, all
chocolate to be melted should be coarsely chopped so
that it is in
small chunks, no more than half an inch thick.
5. How can I prevent chocolate from seizing?
Chocolate seizes when it comes in contact with small amounts of
during melting – which can easily happen when the chocolate
is melted over a
double boiler and the water is permitted to simmer or
boil and thus
produce steam. You will know that chocolate has seized
when it lumps, hardens,
and refuses to soften, regardless of the intensity
of the heat and enthusiastic
If the chocolate seizes, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil for every ounce
chocolate and beat vigorously. If this does not help (and it might not), scrape
the chocolate onto a piece of waxed paper and let it harden. Use
another time when you are making something that calls for
chocolate to be melted
with liquid, such as cream, milk, coffee, butter,
or liquor. One of the quirks
of chocolate is that it never stiffens when
melted with sizable amounts of
liquid, but seizes tight as a drum when a
tiny measure of liquid invades it. The
usual percentage is two ounces of
chocolate for every tablespoon of liquid.
6. What is chocolate bloom?
Chocolate bloom is the tell-tale sign that chocolate has not been stored
correctly. The most obvious type of bloom, fat bloom, looks like gray-
blotches and streaks on the chocolate and occurs when the choco-
late is exposed
to heat during storage. Sugar bloom, which leaves the
chocolate feeling rough,
occurs when the chocolate is stored in damp
conditions. Melting and/or tempering
bloomed chocolate eliminates the
problem, although chocolate affected with sugar
bloom should not be
used for fine candy making.
7. What is the best way to store chocolate?
Store chocolate at cool room temperature in a dark place with good air
circulation; the refrigerator is not recommended although if your kitchen
particularly hot and humid, it might be your only choice. Wrap it well
protect it from odors.
Ideally, chocolate should be wrapped first in foil and then in plastic and
stored at a constant temperature of 65 degrees F and 50 percent humidity.
Slightly higher temperatures and humidity are acceptable although the chocolate
may not last as long. Stored under perfect conditions, un-sweetened and dark chocolate will last for 10 years, and certainly up
a year in good home kitchen conditions; milk and white chocolate
for 7 to
Formed chocolate candies such as truffles and pralines can be frozen
defrosted in the refrigerator before being brought to room temper-
8. What is couverture?
Couverture is the chocolate of choice for most serious chocolate work.
term for professional-quality coating chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa
butter – at least 32 percent and often as high as 39 percent. The extra cocoa
butter allows the chocolate to form a thinner coating shell than other
chocolate. When melted, it is beautifully fluid
with a workable viscosity.
Couverture must be tempered properly before it’s used for candy making
or it won’t set properly and the texture will be grainy. Couverture chocolate
can be used for home baking and simple candy making, if you prefer.
9. What is tempering?
Tempering is a process of melting and cooling chocolate to precise
temperatures (depending on the type) so that the cocoa butter crystals
stabilize; when cooled, tempered chocolate has a pleasing shine,
‘snap’ when bitten, and it retains its marvelous mouthfeel.
temper when it leaves the manufacturer but may go
out of temper if
stored – manifested by the appearance
of chocolate bloom.
It also goes out of
temper when melted. It is
necessary for fine candy
making such as enrobing and
not a technique most home
to worry about.
10. What is ganache?
Ganache is a mixture of bitter (or dark) chocolate and cream. Depend-
its temperature and consistency, it can be used as a frosting, glaze,
or sauce. Ganache’s best-loved role is as the basis for
11. What is a truffle?
Truffle is a term for a chocolate candy that is made from ganache and
flavored with fruit, liqueur, vanilla, nuts, and so on, and it may
with a shell of couverture chocolate. Chocolate truffles are
so named in honor
of the rare culinary truffle, a mushroom prized by gourmets for its rich earthy
flavor. Chocolate truffles, of course, bear
no resemblance but instead taste
divinely of rich, satiny chocolate.
12. Why is some chocolate so much more expensive
The price of chocolate varies greatly from inexpensive candy bars to
truffles. Like wine, the price varies depending on the processing
and quality of
the original ingredients (a chocolate made from high-
quality cacao beans and
other ingredients, with a greater percentage
butter, with more
extensive refining during manufacture) and
of fine hand work needed
to fashion the chocolate into a confection.
13. What is devil’s food?
Devil’s food cakes are an American tradition, so named because the
chocolate crumb of the cake takes on a distinctive reddish hue.
This is caused
by the reaction of non-alkalized cocoa powder with
an alkali. Devil’s food is much loved for its mild but
nonetheless rich chocolate flavor.
14. Why can’t I use unsweetened chocolate in a recipe
calling for bittersweet and just add sugar?
Guesswork would be involved in such a change, and even a slight change
amount of sugar in a given recipe will disrupt the balance of sweet-
interfere with the texture of the final cake, brownie, or cookie.
Too much sugar
attracts moisture and so the baked product likely will be
dense and heavy.
Chocolate manufacturers understand how much sugar
to add to their product for
the correct balance of flavor and texture and
then how to process the chocolate
so that the texture and taste are
smooth and even.
15. Why can’t I substitute milk chocolate in recipes
calling for bittersweet or semisweet?
Milk chocolate cannot be substituted in baking or most other recipes
nature it contains lesser amounts of chocolate liquor than bittersweet or
semisweet chocolate and will not react properly with the
other ingredients in
the recipe. The high percentage of milk proteins
also makes milk chocolate
extremely heat sensitive, hard to melt, and
difficult to use in baking. It must
contain no less than 3.66 percent of
butterfat (milk fat), no less than 12
percent milk solids, and at least 10
percent chocolate liquor. How much sugar,
cocoa butter, lecithin, and
flavorings is up to each manufacturer. Milk
chocolate is our favorite
eating chocolate – but alas, not the first choice for
16. Why do we love chocolate so?
Since people first started enjoying chocolate, it has held a special place
the culinary universe. It is unique among foods, used as an ingredient,
flavoring, and a foodstuff in its own right, and as such is hard to define.
Eating a small piece of chocolate is a heavenly experience – cocoa butter melts
at body temperature and so there is that moment when the choco-
is no longer
solid, and not yet liquid. But there is more. Chocolate’s
aroma, its ability to
create ‘taste memories’ and its indescribably rich
flavor all combine to make it
a food most people cannot resist. But at
the same time cannot fully explain. And
why should we?
How to Melt Chocolate
Couverture - The Professional View
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