Make eye-catching chocolate creations right in your own kitchen this sweet season.
Planning to surprise your loved one with a tray of homemade cookies this heart season or whip up a dessert for your child’s bake sale? Make treats to-die-for with these helpful tips on baking with chocolate. Before you know it, those intimidating recipes you’ve been hesitant to try will seem like a cinch.
Choosing your chocolate
When following a new recipe, be sure you are using the right ingredients. In the case of chocolate, there are many varieties. Choosing the one that your recipe requires is key. For each type of chocolate, the flavor and sweetness vary with the manufacturer. Try several brands and settle on the one you like best. Quality chocolate is glossy, breaks with a snap, and has a chocolaty aroma. When you place it in your mouth it should melt without waxiness or graininess.
Recipes requiring “melted chocolate” may not be as complicated as you think. First of all, double boilers are not usually necessary. One method you can try is applying direct heat to the chocolate by placing it in a heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly, and removing from heat when chocolate is smooth. The easiest option may be to simply place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, custard cup, or measuring cup and heat on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until chocolate is soft enough to smooth.
Tips: Keep all equipment dry and avoid water dropping into the chocolate because it will likely cause the chocolate to seize, or stiffen. If this happens, stir in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon shortening (not butter) for every ounce of chocolate. Also, be sure to keep heat low to avoid scorching and stir continuously during melting.
Garnishing with chocolate
For chocolate shavings atop pies or cakes, rub a piece of semisweet, sweet chocolate, milk chocolate, or a white baking bar across the grating section of a handheld grater. Use the fine or large section depending on what size you want the pieces to be.
To pipe or lace desserts with chocolate, place melted chocolate in a plastic bag (squeezing the open end closed) and cut a tiny hole in one of the bags bottom corners to allow you to spread.
Or, if chocolate curls are what you crave, carefully draw a vegetable peeler across a bar of milk or white chocolate at room temperature. For small curls, use the thin side of the chocolate piece; for large curls, use the broad surface.
Dress up your dessert with marbled chocolate cutouts (or just eat them as is!)
Melt two types of chocolate (or one type of a chocolate and a caramel or peanut butter mixture) separately, adding teaspoons of shortening if the mixtures are too thick. Then, spread one mixture onto a waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Drop the second mixture atop the first and then using a knife or spatula to swirl the two without over mixing. Allow to chill about 10 minutes or until almost set and then, using small cookie cutters, cut out shapes.
For an edible dish for a decadent desert like ice cream, pudding or mousse, try making your own chocolate cups. Simply melt chocolate and dip a custard cup or small bowl covered in plastic wrap into the mixture (tie ends of wrap). Then, invert the cup onto a larger container, using knife to smooth the finish as needed. Allow to dry until firm and then repeat this process two or three more times allowing each layer to dry. When the final coating is firm, carefully pull the plastic wrap away from the cup.
Test your new chocolate baking expertise with these three treats:
Cappuccino Mousse in Chocolate Cups
4 ounces white chocolate
2 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee
1 cup heavy whipping cream, divided
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 tablespoon shortening
1/4 cup sugar
chocolate curls for garnish
Chill clean mixing bowl and balloon whip in freezer for whipping cream.
Heat white chocolate in a medium microwaveable bowl until mixture can be stirred smooth. Dissolve instant coffee in 1 teaspoon hot water. Add dissolved coffee, 1/4 cup heavy cream, vanilla and cinnamon to chocolate and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool completely. Follow chocolate cup preparation as noted above using custard cups to make 8 chocolate cups with the 6 ounces of chocolate morsels. While chocolate cups firm, whip remaining 3/4 cup heavy cream in chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually and whip to very stiff peaks. Very gently fold whipped cream into cooled chocolate mixture, taking care to maintain fluffiness of the whipped cream. Fill each chocolate cup with about 4 tablespoons whipped cream mixture. Garnish with chocolate curls.