February & Chocolate

It’s February , the month where winter is still prominent, the holiday treats are past, the work out routines are seeming old and something to look forward to doing in summertime, and chocolate is desired!

We have a love – like relationship with chocolate at the bakery. We love to eat it in all its delicious forms; we like to work with it (sometimes more than others), in all the ways that we do. And there are so many forms of chocolate: cocoa powder – natural and dutch processed, chocolate bars that are meant to be melted and baked, chocolate best blended and melted with other ingredients to be a ganache or for fondue. There is white chocolate, dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Chocolate for covering petit fours and cakes, chocolate butter even for painting! And who can forget artisanal chocolates?

eloise's pastries chocolate layer cake

Now, I could make this the longest blog entry (or at least an entry for the title), if we devoted it to explaining all the different types of chocolates, and which type you use in what. As we are not chocolateers, I am not going to do that. I can however tell you a few tips so that the next time you might be wanting to make a chocolate creation yourself, you will have a better understanding.
The difference between  baking with a good quality baking chocolate and a Hershey chocolate bar, are the additives. Bakering chocolate is a pure chocolate, without other ingredients, such as cream, sugar, vanilla, etc. Often for baking this is preferred as 1) you control the flavor and strength of chocolate 2) you taste a deeper richer chocolate. Perfect for melting and stirring into your next chocolate mousse. (Which is essentially melted chocolates whipped in egg, cream, and sugar mixture until light and fluffy).
forms of chocolate
Quick note when purchasing baking chocolate bars look at the percentage rating on the label; this will tell you the type of choc
olate and it’s strength of flavor. For instance, milk chocolate has a lesser amount of cocoa and therefore a lower percentage number. On the other hand dark, dark chocolate will have an 80+ percentage number.
Now, another form of chocolate that we commonly use, and that can be a bit confusing is cocoa powder. Pure Cocoa powder (*not Nesquick and not hot chocolate mix) comes in two forms: natural and dutch processed. Pure cocoa powder is produced when the liquid chocolate is processed to remove most of it’s cocoa butter. The solid that is left is processed into the powder. (The idea is similar to making ricotta, for all our cheese makers out there…).
Natural coco powder is very dark, very bitter and an acid, thereby acting as a rising agent wh
en it bakes. Perfect in cakes, brownies – anything dark and chocolaty! Yum!!!
Dutch processed cocoa powder is much more subtle in its’ chocolate taste, almost sweeter, and reddish in color. The way of processing the chocolate leaves it as a neutral (yes, think back to your days of chemistry with acids and bases), and so it requires baking powder in the recipe when being used. Dutch processed cocoa powder is ideal in more sophisticated pastries and complex desserts. We southerner’s and all you converts love it in our red velvet cake!
Wishing you the best of February, Chocolate and Valentines Day!