For sheer indulgence, chocolate takes the cake – in fact, a lot of cakes and confections in all sorts of varieties, shapes, sizes and taste. The trick to having that outstanding confection look like what every chocoholic’s dreams are made of, lies in the application of the chocolate.
Chocolate is a complicated ingredient, with over 600 volatile compounds contributing to its aroma and flavour. Its taste and texture are products of the variety of cacao tree, where it is grown, and how it is fermented, dried, roasted, and tempered.
In this section, we bring some tips and suggestions that might assist in making you the God or Goddess of chocolate concoctions amongst family and friends.
Tempering chocolate is an essential step for making smooth, glossy, evenly coloured coating for your dipped chocolates. Chocolate heated above 46 °C (115 °F) melts completely. If the temperature is lowered too rapidly, you will have unstable crystals, resulting in a chocolate that doesn’t firm up properly and has a dull appearance.
But if you hold it in the 31°-33° C (88°- 92° F) range long enough, most of the cocoa fat molecules will align themselves properly, and subsequent cooling should produce a perfectly snappy coating that you’d like to coat an edible treat with. For tempering, always use top-quality dark, milk or white chocolate. Avoid using incorrectly stored chocolate that has been exposed to a wide range of temperatures; the cocoa fat will separate from the rest of the chocolate, creating a dull grey coating and roughish texture. When tempered correctly, the good stable Beta V fat crystals melt just below body temperature, which means the chocolate releases its flavour as soon as it warms up in your mouth. The fat crystals, which surround the cacao solids, melt as they hit your tongue, releasing the flavourful solids within, on your taste buds.
Put cocoa nibs into a spice grinder and use them in place of pepper. Cocoa butter can even be used as an ingredient, like a crust for salmon fillets. Spread some melted cocoa butter on the salmon skin, then press the cocoa nibs on; flip it over, then sprinkle the flesh with salt. Heat some more cocoa butter in a pan and then slide the fish in crust-side down. Once the crust forms, flip it over and finish it in the oven.
Adding dark chocolate to a sauce for a savoury application like a stew gives the dish an extra twist. Whisk in just enough to give you that earthiness; an extra-dark, bitter chocolate like Valrhona is preferred, so it doesn’t add sweetness.
Chocolate makes for amazing drinks. Add cocoa nibs to plain vodka to give it a great flavour (it takes a couple of weeks). Or make cocktails starting with a basic hot chocolate recipe, and then add rum and mint, or a clear alcohol, then rim the glass with cocoa powder.