Sometimes, it's the basic things that can trip you up..... When I was working on…
Now that you have a variety of high end chocolates to taste, let’s compare some of them. First, chocolate is best at room temperature (about 68 degrees). As you unwrap the chocolate, look at the surface (if its grayish – that’s either sugar or fat bloom – we’ll cover that in the melting section….). It should be nice and shiny. It should break with a clean snap. Now place a small piece on your tongue and let it melt. How is the texture? It should be nice and smooth – not grainy or waxy. Now move it around your tongue to get the different flavors. You will be amazed at the different flavor profiles of these chocolates. Some are more “fruity” others have a more “earthy.”
Now that we have tasted some of the chocolates and have settled on one we like. Let’s move on to cooking with it. First, if the chocolate has gray streaks or surface, this can be either sugar bloom or fat bloom. If you see what looks like sugar crystals on the surface of the chocolate, unfortunately, it’s not going to work for chocolate only recipes – if you are using liquid (butter, cream, etc.) with the chocolate, you can melt and use it. If you don’t see the crystals, then that just indicates the chocolate got too warm while it was being stored and some of the cocoa butter fat has moved to the surface. This is solely cosmetic and once we melt the chocolate, it will blend back together very nicely.
Depending on how the chocolate will be used in the recipe, there are different ways of melting chocolate. Many people melt chocolate in a microwave, but since a few seconds can mean the difference between melted chocolate and a ruined burned mess, I don’t use the microwave. I either use a double boiler or hot liquid.
A double boiler is a bit of a misnomer when it come to chocolate. I have a stainless steel bowl that I put over a sauce pan. The sauce pan should have water in it, but not enough to reach the bottom of the bowl. I put whatever I am going to melt in the bowl – usually either chocolate by itself or chocolate and butter (now HOW can you go wrong there!). With the bowl off of the pan, bring the water in the pan to a boil. Turn the heat off from below the pan and put the bowl of chocolate on top. You will need to stir occasionally as the heat of the bowl will melt the chocolate so you want to move the unmelted pieces so they touch the surface of the bowl. Now a very strong warning here…..if you are melting chocolate only, you must be EXTREMELY careful not to get any water in the bowl with the chocolate or it will “sieze. (See note at bottom of post)” The only solution when you do this is to change recipes and add liquid or butter to allow the chocolate to come back together. The other way of melting chocolate is to heat up a liquid and then pour it over the chocolate. I do this a lot when using chocolate and heavy cream. Bring the cream to a boil, then pour it over the chocolate or add the chocolate to the cream. Let it sit for about a minute, then start stirring occasionally until all the chocolate melts and you get a nice smooth blend.
Below is a favorite recipe for Molten Chocolate Cakes – those nice fudgy cakes with the oh so good chocolate centers that ooze out when you cut into them. It’s a pretty easy recipe, but you must use very good ingredients – especially the chocolate – since it will be the star of this show!
(A side note on storage – store chocolate in a cool dry place, 60-70 degrees – and away from strong smelling items like pepper mint. Or if you are like me and have the pantry in the laundry room, don’t put the bounce and the chocolate in the same cabinet….trust me – just don’t….)
Molten Chocolate Cakes
9 2/3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, bar (Size of a large baking bar of Scharffenberger)
15 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus additional for buttering ramekins
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste (I love Vanilla Paste – you can use the same amount of Vanilla Extract)
3 each large egg, at room temperature
6 each large egg yolks, at room temperature
3/4 cup bakers sugar (Very fine sugar – run regular sugar in food processor for about a minute)
1 1/2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 8-4 oz. ramekins. (I now use silicon ramekins that work great if you happen to have them.) Coarsely chop the chocolate into small chunks. Melt chocolate and butter over double boiler Stir in vanilla paste. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
With electric mixture, whip the eggs and yolks with the sugar for 4 to 5 minutes until thick and pale.
Fold about 1/4 of chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Gently fold egg mixture into remaining chocolate mixture to combine.
Combine cocoa powder and flour. Using a small strainer, sift dry ingredients onto top of batter. Gently fold until incorporated.
Divide batter among greased ramekins and place on baking sheet. Bake until the tops of cakes are puffed up and just starting to crack, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly, about 3 minutes. Run paring knife around edge of ramekins and invert onto serving plates. Serve cakes warm so that center is molten.
Yield: 8 cakes
Note on “Seizing”
I went to the expert to get the information about what happens when chocolate seizes. Referencing “Bakewise” by Shirley Corriher, she referenced an example of a sugar bowl. If you pour boiling water over sugar, it will dissolve. If, however, you put in a spoon that just came out of your coffee, the sugar crystals lump together. The small amount of moisture causes the sugar crystals to glue together. The same happens in the chocolate – it just turns to a grainy mess. You can fix by adding more water. Acording to Shirley, for 55-60% chocolate, it takes about 1 tablespoon of liquid per 2 ounces of chocolate. For higher percentage chocolate, it could take 1 1/2 tablespoons or more per 2 ounces of chocolate.