Enjoying a good quality chocolate is an experience. The rich and complex flavours lull you into a sense of Euphoria. It’s one of the most beloved discoveries of mankind.
But with an array of chocolates available at convenience stores, markets, and speciality shops, we are sure to come across plenty of confusion in our minds. Here in this Chocolate FAQs you will get answers to all your chocolate related queries. So stick along and Chocolate Rocks!
I got this amazing opportunity to have a one on one conversation with Chef Anees Khan. He is the STAR at Star Anise Fine Foods & Leisure Pvt. Ltd. With the 15 years of culinary experience working for several International five-star hotels across the world, he made the “Science Of The Chocolate” easy to understand for me.
We had long conversations on Chocolate sitting at StarAnise Café & Patisserie nibbling on chocolaty treats. I am sharing all the tips, tricks, ideas, brands available and even the suppliers here in this post. Hope this will be helpful for you all. Still, if you have any other query drop in the comments. I will get back to you with an answer.
1. How do you spot a good chocolate?
When buying read the ingredients on the package carefully. It should feature cocoa as the main ingredient, and it should have been manufactured recently. The chocolate should have smooth, glossy texture and a notable chocolate smell. Break the piece in half. It should resonate with a resounding “SNAP!”
2. I hear so much about cocoa butter content. Could you please explain what this means?
It’s a guide to specific flavour intensity. The numbers point to milder or deeper chocolate flavour. Generally, a higher cocoa content equates a more intense chocolate flavour and lower sugar content.
“Cocoa content” signifies a combination of cocoa beans, cocoa butter and cocoa powder altogether.
3. How should I store my chocolate and how long can I keep the chocolate?
The shelf life of most milk chocolate is one year; for most dark chocolate, it’s two years. Chocolate keeps best between 65 and 70°F, away from direct sunlight, and protected from moisture. When refrigerating or freezing chocolate, make sure it is sealed in an airtight container.
4. What is the best way to store Chocolate in Warm Temperatures?
If you live in an extremely warm area, you may need to keep your chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent it from melting. To freeze the chocolate, place it in an airtight container, and do not remove it from its container until it has been brought up to room temperature, to prevent condensation from forming on the chocolate. These water droplets will prevent the chocolate from melting smoothly and might affect the texture of the melted chocolate.
5. What is the difference between bittersweet and semisweet?
In practice, semisweet chocolate is typically much sweeter and contains about 50% sugar. Bittersweet chocolate, on the other hand, typically contains about 33% sugar. Bittersweet and semisweet are the chocolates most frequently called for in baking and can be used interchangeably, although bittersweet chocolate has a deeper flavour. When cocoa beans are removed from their pods, fermented, dried, roasted, cracked open and their shells discarded, they are milled into a thick paste called chocolate liquor. The most notable difference between bittersweet and semisweet chocolate lies in the liquor content of each.
6. What is white chocolate?
White chocolate is made with a blend of sugar, cocoa butter, milk products, vanilla, and a fatty substance called lecithin. Technically, white chocolate is not a chocolate —and it doesn’t really taste like one—because it doesn’t contain chocolate solids. When cocoa beans are removed from their pods, fermented, dried, roasted, cracked open, and their shells discarded, what results is a nib.
Chocolate nibs are ground into a paste called chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor can be separated into cocoa solids, which provide the flavour, and cocoa butter, which is the fat. Though white chocolate contains extracted cocoa butter, it lacks the component that defines real chocolate white “chocolate” is the most fragile form of all chocolates and close attention must be paid to it when melting. It can burn and seize very easily unless heated very slowly.
7. What is Dutch processed cocoa?
Cocoa powder is made from chocolate liquor that has nearly all the cocoa butter removed under pressure so that it forms a press cake. This is ground into powder. So cocoa powder is the core of a chocolate’s flavour, without any extra fat, sugar, or milk to get in the way Dutch processed cocoa, ‘alkalized’ cocoa powder, has been treated with an alkali during processing to produce a less harsh-tasting, darkly coloured cocoa. This process is pure to control flavour and colour.
Hershey’s Cocoa Powder, 225g
8. What is the best way to melt chocolate?
Place chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water; cook, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Place chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring between each until melted. Stirring is important to stabilize the temperature of the chocolate when melting. If you prefer the double boiler, make sure the water never boils vigorously. Boiling and simmering produce steam, which can seep into the melting chocolate and cause it to stiffen, or ‘seize’.
9. What is chocolate seizing?
Chocolate is made up of fat and dry ingredients. The process of making cocoa beans into chocolate takes out all of the moisture, so the end result is a dry product made of up cocoa butter (fat), cocoa and sugar (dry). This means that even when chocolate is in its liquid state, it is still a dry product. When the melted chocolate comes into contact with water, the dry particles become moist and begin to stick together, quickly forming a gritty, rough mass of chocolate. This is called chocolate seizing.
10. How can I prevent chocolate from seizing?
The most important thing you can do to prevent chocolate from seizing is to eliminate any chance of the chocolate coming into contact with water. Always make sure the bowls and utensils you are using are perfectly dry.
Double boiler – Use a double boiler melting with moderate heat (medium to high simmer), and a watchful eye over temperatures will certainly help. Avoid letting molten chocolate stand over higher heat for long periods without stirring. Microwave – Avoid long intervals over 30 seconds in a microwave oven. Even shorter bursts of microwaves without a turntable…, stirring between cycles. Avoid direct heating (putting a pan of chocolate directly onto the hot burners or open flame unless you are very watchful on temperature. Never cover chocolate that is hot. The condensation can cause the chocolate to seize.
11. What is chocolate bloom?
Chocolate bloom is a sign that chocolate has not been stored correctly. The bloomed chocolate are safe to be consumed. Chocolate bloom can be classified under two categories—Fat bloom and Sugar bloom. They are caused by different environmental conditions. The fat bloom looks like grey-white blotches and streaks on the chocolate and occurs when the chocolate is exposed to heat during storage. Sugar bloom, which leaves the chocolate feeling rough, occurs when the chocolate is stored in damp conditions.
12. What is couverture?
Couverture is the name given to a certain class of high-quality chocolate. Couverture chocolate also is known as, real chocolate is made up of cocoa butter and chocolate liquor for the two main ingredients. This translates into a higher quality of chocolate that requires tempering when melting it down.
13. What’s the Difference? Compound vs. Couverture Chocolate?
Compound Chocolate: Compound chocolate substitutes the two main ingredients found in real chocolate. Instead of chocolate liquor, it has cocoa powder and replaces cocoa butter with an oil vegetable fat. This means, for candy making, this chocolate can be melted down and dipped and will set up fine. It tastes a little different. Most people can’t tell, but when tasted next to a couverture chocolate, then the difference can be seen.
Couverture Chocolate: (Real Chocolate) As stated above, real chocolate has cocoa butter and chocolate liquor as main ingredients. This means that it requires more attention and preparation when being melted down. Unlike the compound coating, it cannot just be melted down. It has to be tempered. If it’s not, then the chocolate will bloom, or may not even set up properly. When it is tempered correctly, it sets up with a glossy shine, has a snap and melts in your mouth.
14. What is tempering?
Tempered chocolate is very glossy, has a firm finish and melts smoothly. It is chocolate at its very best. If you are using real chocolate Couverture to prepare chocolate products, you will need to temper the chocolate. But if you are using compound you don’t need to temper.
Tempering is done by melting solid chocolate to a temperature high enough that the crystals in the cocoa butter break down. This temperature is between 110-120F. Once the chocolate is fully melted, it must be cooled to about 82F, a temperature at which crystals will start to form again so that the chocolate can eventually re-solidify. The chocolate’s temperature is then raised back to about 90F, where it is very fluid and can be poured into chocolate molds and used for other applications. All chocolate – white, milk and dark – can be tempered. You will not need to temper the chocolate if using for brownies and cakes etc.
15. What is ganache?
Ganache is a mixture of bitter (or dark) chocolate and cream. Depending on its temperature and consistency, it can be used as a frosting, glaze, filling, or sauce.
Understanding the chocolate Ganache:
The chocolate ganache is all about the proportion of cream to chocolate. Glazes have thinner ( pouring )consistency so a higher percentage of cream is required.
A thicker ganache for frosting or for rolling into truffles needs to be stiffer, so the chocolate percentage is higher.
To Make Layer cake filling and thick glaze: 1:1, equal parts chocolate and cream.
Chocolate truffles: 2:1, two parts chocolate to one part cream.
Soft icing and runny glaze: 1:2, one part chocolate to two parts cream.
(1:1 ratio means 4 ounces chocolate to 4 ounces cream)
16. Why are some chocolates more expensive, than other chocolates?
The short answer is that good quality chocolate has a high proportion of cocoa constituents with little or no substitution.
What to look for: High cocoa solids content. Chocolate with less than 50% cocoa solids will have little real chocolate taste and those with more than 70% will have a much more complex and fine chocolate taste.
Cocoa butter content: Chocolate makers tend to substitute vegetable oil in place of cocoa butter to reduce costs. Cocoa butter prices have increased in recent years due to demand in the cosmetics industry.
Smooth texture: This comes from the cocoa spending a longer period being crushed in the concher.
Conversely, these are indications of a poor quality chocolate: the Low proportion of cocoa solids. Use of vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter Chocolates with low cocoa solids content, such as milk chocolate, are usually inappropriate for baking due to their proportionally low chocolate flavour. The baking cocoa powder itself is in fact just another word for cocoa solids, and this is why it is favoured when baking: it is the pure chocolate flavour.
17. What are the brands available in Indian market?
Compound Chocolates in India are
Morde, Mellow, Carat, Colate, Dukes
Couverture Chocolates in India are
Morde, Callebaut, Barry Callebaut, Belcolade, Felchin, Valhrohna
18. What is the best a home baker choose from, when he/she doesn’t want to compromise with the quality and still keep the budget in mind?
Morde real chocolate or couverture with 45% cocoa butter is the best in terms of budget and quality that a home baker can use to achieve descent baking results.
19. What according to you are the best flavour combos with chocolate?
Here are some foods that pair amazingly with white chocolate:
Sea salt caramel, Agave nectar, Maple syrup, Lemongrass, Pink peppercorn, Cardamom, Saffron, Sea salt, Wasabi, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Cranberry, Blueberries, Macadamia nuts, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Brie Cheese, Dragon well tea, Matcha tea, Colombian coffee, Costa Rican coffee
Some foods that pair super-well with milk chocolate are:
Gruyere Cheese, Honey, Coconut, Lavender, Pink Himalayan salt, Curry powder, Orange, Strawberries, Raspberries, Chai tea, Darjeeling tea, Smoked black tea, Colombian coffee, Kenyan coffee, Sumatran coffee, Yemeni coffee, Ethiopian coffee, Kona coffee, Raspberry beers, Peanuts, Walnuts
Some of the taste bud-blasting pairings for dark chocolate:
Sea salt caramel, Ginger, Lavender, Mint, Cardamom, Wasabi, Chipotle, Jalapeño, Cinnamon, Fennel, Black sesame seeds, Banana, Lime, Figs, Grapes, Dried currants, Pine nuts, Hazelnuts, Almonds, Goat cheese, Aged gouda, Parmesan, Chèvre, Monterey Jack, Blue cheese,
Grasshoppers — yes the insect!, Salmon, Shrimp, Assam tea, Earl Grey tea, Dark-roast coffee, Espresso beans, Red zinfandel.