Chocolate

There is nothing like bringing out a gooey chocolate cake to get oohs and aahs of approval from your guests. However, you need to learn a bit about how to use chocolate properly if you want to make really spectacular cakes and desserts.

What Is Chocolate?

Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean and is a mixture of cocoa solids (also called cocoa mass) and cocoa butter, together with other ingredients like sugar, milk solids etc. The exact proportion of each ingredient depends on what the chocolate is going to be used for.

Types Of Chocolate

Apart from the milk chocolate and dark chocolate bars that we are all familiar with, there are also other types of chocolate used in baking and decorating cakes. You can choose from bitter-sweet, semi-sweet, unsweetened (otherwise known as baking or cooking chocolate), and couverture chocolate, which is used by professional chefs. You can also use white chocolate as well as cocoa and drinking chocolate in your cakes and cookies. Make sure you check to see what your recipe calls for as different types of chocolate can have very different results. You don't want to spoil your recipe by using the wrong type of chocolate!

Storing Chocolate

Chocolate needs to be stored properly. Chocolate can get a white film or 'bloom' on it if it is stored in too warm a place, although it still can be used in baking. Also, chocolate starts to melt when it gets hot and you don't want melted chocolate all over your cupboard, so store chocolate in a cool, dry cupboard, preferably wrapped in a couple of layers of plastic. If where you live gets very hot, you may prefer to store your chocolate in the fridge or freezer. Just remember to remove it about half an hour before you want to use it.

Grating Chocolate

When chocolate is chilled, it is very easy to grate. Just use a regular grater and grate the amount you need. To prevent clogging, occasionally bang the grater on the counter or use a pastry brush to brush the excess chocolate away.

Creating Curls

If you want to make chocolate curls, make sure your chocolate is at room temperature and then use a vegetable peeler and shave the chocolate, creating curls. Experiment with cheap chocolate to get the technique right before using the expensive stuff to create your masterpiece! It's a good idea to wrap the end of the chocolate in plastic wrap, or wear thin plastic gloves to prevent your hands getting covered in chocolate.

Melting Chocolate

Chocolate burns very easily, so you need to melt chocolate slowly on a low heat in a double boiler or bain marie. If you don't have either you can improvise by suspending a bowl over a pan with hot water. As water and chocolate don't mix be careful not to let any water or steam touch the chocolate. Make sure that even the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the hot water. Give the chocolate an occasional stir as it melts. Alternatively you can melt chocolate in the microwave. Put a small amount of chocolate in a glass bowl and zap it uncovered for 15 seconds at a time, making sure to stir it between zaps, until it's completed melted.

As you gain confidence in working with chocolate you will be able to produce amazing results.

Check out the rest of our website for more cake decorating tips and ideas.