How to get great results with chocolate

How to get great results with chocolate

It’s all about the chocolate

So many of the problems that people face in their home chocolate creations are because they started with the wrong ingredient!  

They bought chocolate – but not the right kind of chocolate!

If you want to get great results with chocolate, you need to buy great chocolate.

What type of chocolate should you buy?

squares of white and dark chocolate in a pile

Now we’ve all heard about the magic 70%; buying chocolate with 70% cocoa content means that it must be a quality bar. Well in some cases that will be true of course. Just because it has more chocolate in it, doesn’t mean the chocolate is of good quality. Please don’t be fooled by numbers – it’s really about what you like the taste of!

Saying that numbers are important!  You are looking to buy chocolate with a minimum of 30% cocoa content – any less, and you will have real troubles trying to get it to ‘temper’, especially if it contains vegetable fat!

Where can you buy the right chocolate?

I recommend the supermarket’s own brands for home chocolate cooking, they have some really good and more interesting chocolate bars in stock. If you are looking for gourmet, Willie’s Cacao and Valrhona are two quality brands that can be found fairly easily at Waitrose and often good deli’s too.

Gourmet chocolate is making its mark, so if you want to explore some fantastic bars, read my interview with Master Chocolatier Paul A Young for some top tips on the best artisan producers and bars around on the market today.

Can you work with different chocolate?

If you are looking to work with either white or milk chocolate, then you need to ensure that it has a minimum cocoa content of 30%. if you are working with dark chocolate, then usually you will be looking at around 70%.  

chunks of white chocolate

It does depend on the flavour profile of the chocolate, one of my favourites is a 64% cocoa Ecuadorian chocolate which has a great depth of flavour. Taste it first, and see what you think!

You can use 100% cocoa (such as Willie’s cacao) to which you would add more sugar to the recipe! Here’s a dark chocolate cake recipe to try.

Experiment and see what you like best. Use the cheap stuff and you will always struggle to get decent results (your average Cadbury bar has only around 20% cocoa content). If you experience a chocolate disaster, take a look at some tips to remedy things.

Too hot to handle!

Temperature is everything with chocolate!  

Molten chocolate and spoon

If the room is too warm then it will not set properly and you will see dull and streaky results. “Ah, I shall pop it in the fridge then” – I hear you cry! NO! Cool too quickly and this can also ruin your finish!

So, the key thing is to work at a cool temperature, but not too cool! Your room needs to be 20° or below. If you go much above 20° you will start to have problems setting your chocolate.

If you were thinking of making those truffles on the hottest day of the year, think again – or get up very early!  

Chocolate does not like humidity either, so a very wet day can also cause problems. Don’t have the kettle on too often and fill your kitchen with steam!

Once you have made your chocolate creations, leaving them to set at room temperature (provided your room is at the right temperature), in a cool pantry, a shed, or even garage is ideal.

When you have properly tempered your chocolate, leave it to cool at the right room temperature, it will start to set fairly quickly.  

Leave it for around 30mins at least to make sure it’s fully set (more for thicker creations). 

You should see a nice smooth, shiny finish and chocolate that easily pops out of moulds or comes off the surface easily, without any hassle!

Losing your temper with chocolate!

Now chocolate is a fickle friend, and the way we handle the chocolate will be key to getting great results. It’s all about getting a good temper on the chocolate – and each chocolate will have a different tempering point!

Two tanks of chocolate

Tempering chocolate changes the structure of the crystals within chocolate so that we get a nice shiny finish and snap to our chocolate when set. To do this we heat the chocolate to 45° to melt away the main crystals, then cool quickly to a very specific point (usually around 30° to 32°) to make the right crystal present. Sounds very scientific and rather complicated, doesn’t it!   

As chocolatiers, we will usually use tempering machines, temper traditionally on marble, or the seeding method (my preferred choice) where we add fresh chocolate to heated chocolate to cool the chocolate mixture to the right point.  

You are not likely to have access to such expensive equipment, or indeed work with such quantities of chocolate, so read my secrets to successfully ‘tempering’ chocolate at home.

Show us what you made! Come and share your creations over on my Facebook page. Let’s talk chocolate!

Dark Chocolate Cake

Dark Chocolate Cake

Dark chocolate cake with white chocolate shavings
Ingredients
  • 180g 100% cacao chocolate, grated
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 50 light muscavado sugar
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 100g ground almonds

For the icing:

  • 250ml double cream
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 90g 100% cacao chocolate, grated
Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C.
You will need a 25cm springform cake tin, lined with baking paper.
Put a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the bowl is not touching the water – melt the grated chocolate and butter together and remove from the heat.
Beat the eggs with the two sugars (using your mixer preferably) until pale and doubled in size.
Once cooled, gently stir the melted chocolate into the eggs with a large metal spoon, and then fold in the ground almonds.
Pour the mixture into your tin and bake for 35 mins, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.
To make the icing, heat the cream and sugar together until it comes to a light simmer. Remove this from the heat and wait one minute (exactly, put the timer on!). Stir in the grated chocolate until it has melted. Leave this to cool and spread over the cooled cake. You can add shavings or other adornments to your finished cake as you wish.

Dawn Says
Dawn Fry

There is no sweetness in the chocolate as it is 100% cacao. You can add more sugar to taste. You can buy 100% cacao in most supermarkets. Look in the cooking aisle instead of the chocolate section. It does give a wonderful full chocolate flavour. I love the intensity as I prefer things less sweet!
Inspired by the Cloud Forest Chocolate Cake in Willie Harcourt-Cooze’s book ‘Willie’s Chocolate Factory’

This is number three in my top of the chocs recipes to make at home. For more inspiration visit my facebook page.

If you love chocolate have you ever considered what it might be like to make chocolate your business?

Chocolate Crunchy Nut Squares

Chocolate Crunchy Nut Squares

Chocolate crunchy nut squares with mini marshmallows
Ingredients
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 3 x 15ml tbsp golden syrup
  • 250g salted peanuts
  • 4 x 40g Crunchie bars
  • 1 baking or foil tray, approximately 30 x 20 x 5 cm. (if using a baking tray, line with parchment or greaseproof paper)
Method

Add chopped chocolate, butter, and syrup to your saucepan and place over low heat. Bash up your crunchies, measure out your salted peanuts and mix together in a separate bowl. Pour the melted chocolate mixture over the nut/honeycomb mixture, stir well and pour into your tin. Smooth out (add extra goodies if you wish, like mini marshmallows or edible glitter) and leave to cool. Once cooled, pop in the fridge for a few hours, then remove and cut into squares. Bet you can’t eat only one square!

Dawn Says
Dawn Fry

Use good quality chocolate. Minimum of 70% cocoa for the dark and 30% cocoa for the milk chocolate. You can buy some supermarket own-brand chocolate for this.
I buy honeycomb in chunks for my chocolate workshops – so I use this instead of buying Crunchie bars. I add a little extra milk chocolate too to compensate!
Inspired by Nigella Lawson’s Sweet and salty crunch nut bars, as appears in ‘Kitchen’

This is number five in my top of the chocs recipes to make at home. For more inspiration pop to my facebook page.

If you love chocolate, have you ever considered what it might be like to make chocolate your business?