Here is briefing about types of chocolates and how to handle them while cooking. There are wide varieties of cooking chocolate in market for you to choose and the costlier the brand is the better the end product would be.
1. Types of Chocolates:
- Semisweet/Dark Chocolate (52 to 62% cocoa):
This is entry level chocolate for beginners to work with. It has a slightly sweet flavour and dark brown colour. It melts easily and combines well with other ingredients. This goes best for dipping.
- Bittersweet Chocolate (63 to 72% cocoa):
This is darker than the semisweet chocolate. The higher cocoa content makes it tricky to work with and is favourite of many chefs.
- Milk Chocolate (36 to 46% cocoa):
This is light brown in colour and mainly has milk solids and is creamy and mild. This is mainly avoided in the recipes.
- White Chocolate:
This does not contain cocoa at all and thus the white colour. This is just the cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla and milk. It is very sensitive to heat and needs careful attention while melting.
- Unsweetened Chocolate:
As the name implies there is no sugar and it is 100% cocoa. This is also widely used in many recipes as it helps to control the sweetness of the food that is prepared.
- Cocoa Powder:
This is the pure chocolate mass which is left when the cocoa butter has been removed from the chocolate. This is the product which gives desserts a wonderful depth of flavour.
2. Storing Chocolates:
Cooking chocolates should be wrapped properly and stored in a cool dry place. These should not be refrigerated, because refrigeration causes condensation but cooking chocolate needs to be dry before melting or being added with the other ingredients. In places of very high temperature there is no option but to refrigerate. In that case make sure the chocolates come to room temperature before being used for cooking.
3. Chopping Chocolates:
Chocolates are always chopped before being used for cooking. If the brand and the variety you use is as hard you should choose to chop it on a wooden board with a serrated knife. Few brands are not as hard and you can chop with the knife, holding the chocolate with your hand.
For decorating purposes chocolates are grated and you can grate the chocolate as you grate any vegetable. But do not touch the grated chocolate after grating, instead directly refrigerate the grated chocolate and use it just before decoration.
Chocolate curls are another way of decorating the cake, and you can use a peeler on the short or long edge of the chocolate bar and peel it hard to form a nice chocolate curl. Handle it carefully and refrigerate until use.
Chocolate Caraque is another way of peeling chocolates and is best on top of the cakes dressed with cream or ganache. To make caraque, you should melt in generous amount of chocolate and spread it fully on a chopping board or a smooth surface and allow to set for 2 to 3 hours or refrigerate for half an hour. Later use a knife as shown and scrape it in layers to make the caraques. You could refrigerate the caraques until the time of use.
4. Melting Chocolate in a double boiler:
This is considered the safe way for melting any chocolate, as it prevents burning of the chocolates unlike melting in microwave. Chop the chocolates first and place in a heatproof bowl, preferably a glass bowl. Place a saucepan with handle over stove. Fill 1/4 of the saucepan with water. Bring it to boil and simmer it. Place the glass bowl with chocolate over this saucepan and keep stirring until the chocolate is melted well. You should ensure not one drop of water gets mixed with the chocolate, else it will spoil the recipe. Once chocolate is melted, remove from stove and let it cool down before being used for any recipe.
5. Melting in Microwave:
Melting chocolate in microwave is little tricky and once you are used to it, you will always prefer to melt it in microwave rather than the double boiler. Chop the chocolates and place in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave the bowl for 30 seconds on high power, remove and stir for a minute. If the quantity of the chocolate being melted is less, it melts on the first 30 seconds. If you feel the chocolate is now a little hard and is not melted fully, microwave again for 30 more seconds and take it out, stir and ensure its fully melted. Do not microwave for more than 30 to 60 seconds on one go, as it might tend to burn the chocolate. White chocolates are too sensitive to microwave heating. Once melted, cool it down before being added to the other ingredients.
Reference: Step-by-Step Chocolate Cookbook, Nita Mehta.