Know Your Chocolate

13/09/2012 20:24

When you're cooking with chocolate its certainly worth using the best quality plain dark chocolate you can afford. The best chocolate contains a high amount of cocoa solids. Look for chocolate with 60 - 70%
and above, it has the best flavour, and its the best you can buy.

Chocolate sometimes gets a
'bloom' this term is used when white crystals appear on the surface of the chocolate. This is caused by exposure to heat and humidity, so be sure to store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Types of Chocolate

Bitter chocolate ~ is the ultimate cooking chocolate - just cocoa butter and chocolate solids. Its full of flavour, but you won't like it raw!

Dark or Plain ~ contains the same ingredients as the bitter chocolate, but also contains added sugar. Some types of plain chocolate have flavourings such as vanilla or cinnamon. Its suitable for cooking - baking and melting, or just eating. It can be kept for up to two years, stored in a cool dry place. Don't keep it in the fridge or it will develop a 'bloom'


Milk ~  is made with milk solids and a smaller percentage of cocoa solids, making it creamier and sweeter. Its less suitable for cooking and is best just used for decoration. Be careful not to overheat or it will become oily, just melt gently.


White ~ not really chocolate as it contains no cocoa solids. Its made from cocoa butter, milk solids & sugar with added vanilla. It will go off easily, so best to store it in the fridge. Its fine used for chilled mousses and for decoration. It can be difficult chocolate to melt because of the high sugar content. Take care when melting white chocolate - place in a bowl over a pan of hot water with the heat switched off and leave to melt for about 10 minutes, or it may go grainy.

Cocoa Powder ~ is the pulverised remains of the cocoa bean after the cocoa butter and cocoa liquor has been removed. It is unsweetened. Cocoa powder is used in baking or for decoration.

To melt chocolate ~ break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof glass bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water - do not allow the water to boil and the bowl should not touch the water. Leave for a few minutes until mostly melted, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow the rest of the chocolate to melt in the remaining heat.



Melt 100g milk chocolate, in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Put 75ml  milk, 1 tbsp double cream & 15g  caster sugar into a small pan, bring to the boil, whisking gently. Pour onto the chocolate, stirring constantly. Add 15g diced butter, a liitle at a time and stir until glossy.

Lovely served drizzled over vanilla ice cream and slices of ripe pears.

Perfect for those cosy nights by the fire.

85g dark plain chocolate, broken into pieces
300ml milk
1 tbsp caster sugar (or to ones own taste)
100ml whipped cream
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp  nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the chocolate, sugar, milk, vanilla, cinnamon & nutmeg into a small heavy-based saucepan. Heat gently, stirring until the chocolate has melted. Gently bring to the boil, whisking all the time, until smooth and frothy. Pour into warmed mugs and top with the whipped cream and a sprinkle of finely grated chocolate.

Makes ~ 20

110g Caster sugar
275g self-raising flour
225g butter, softened
4 tbsp cocoa powder

Preheat the oven 180C/350F /Gas mark 4, place all the ingredients into food processor and pulse until combined. Tip into a bowl and roll the mixture into balls, about the size of a walnut. Then place them onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment, space them out well and flatten using the back of a wet fork. Pop into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack . To finish - dust with plenty of icing sugar.

TIP~ This biscuit dough will provide a good base for  making a variety of cookies, so try out different flavours, such as mixed spice, lemon, orange, almonds...